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Full text of "The Purple Cloud"

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Title: The Purple Cloud

Author: M.P. Shiel

Release Date: February 22, 2004 [EBook #11229]

Language: English

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THE PURPLE CLOUD

By

M.P. Shiel

1901




[Greek: estai kai Samos ammos, eseitai Daelos adaelos]

_Sibylline Prophecy_




INTRODUCTION


About three months ago--that is to say, toward the end of May of this
year of 1900--the writer whose name appears on the title-page received
as noteworthy a letter, and packet of papers, as it has been his lot to
examine. They came from a very good friend of mine, whose name there is
no reason that I should now conceal--Dr. Arthur Lister Browne, M.A.
(Oxon.), F.R.C.P. It happened that for two years I had been spending
most of my time in France, and as Browne had a Norfolk practice, I had
not seen him during my visits to London. Moreover, though our friendship
was of the most intimate kind, we were both atrocious correspondents: so
that only two notes passed between us during those years.

Till, last May, there reached me the letter--and the packet--to which I
refer. The packet consisted of four note-books, quite crowded
throughout with those giddy shapes of Pitman's shorthand, whose
_ensemble_ so resembles startled swarms hovering in flighty poses on the
wing. They were scribbled in pencil, with little distinction between
thick and thin strokes, few vowels: so that their slow deciphering, I
can assure the reader, has been no holiday. The letter also was
pencilled in shorthand; and this letter, together with the second of the
note-books which I have deciphered (it was marked 'III.'), I now
publish.

[I must say, however, that in some five instances there will occur
sentences rather crutched by my own guess-work; and in two instances the
characters were so impossibly mystical, that I had to abandon the
passage with a head-ache. But all this will be found immaterial to the
general narrative.]

The following is Browne's letter:

'DEAR OLD SHIEL,--I have just been lying thinking of you, and wishing
that you were here to give one a last squeeze of the hand before
I--"_go_": for, by all appearance, "going" I am. Four days ago, I began
to feel a soreness in the throat, and passing by old Johnson's surgery
at Selbridge, went in and asked him to have a look at me. He muttered
something about membranous laryngitis which made me smile, but by the
time I reached home I was hoarse, and not smiling: before night I had
dyspnoca and laryngeal stridor. I at once telegraphed to London for
Morgan, and, between him and Johnson, they have been opening my trachea,
and burning my inside with chromic acid and the galvanic cautery. The
difficulty as to breathing has subsided, and it is wonderful how little
I suffer: but I am much too old a hand not to know what's what: the
bronchi are involved--_too far_ involved--and as a matter of absolute
fact, there isn't any hope. Morgan is still, I believe, fondly dwelling
upon the possibility of adding me to his successful-tracheotomy
statistics, but prognosis was always my strong point, and I say No. The
very small consolation of my death will be the beating of a specialist
in his own line. So we shall see.

'I have been arranging some of my affairs this morning, and remembered
these notebooks. I intended letting you have them months ago, but my
habit of putting things off, and the fact that the lady was alive from
whom I took down the words, prevented me. Now she is dead, and as a
literary man, and a student of life, you should be interested, if you
can manage to read them. You may even find them valuable.

'I am under a little morphia at present, propped up in a nice little
state of languor, and as I am able to write without much effort, I will
tell you in the old Pitman's something about her. Her name was Miss Mary
Wilson; she was about thirty when I met her, forty-five when she died,
and I knew her intimately all those fifteen years. Do you know anything
about the philosophy of the hypnotic trance? Well, that was the relation
between us--hypnotist and subject. She had been under another man before
my time, but no one was ever so successful with her as I. She suffered
from _tic douloureux_ of the fifth nerve. She had had most of her teeth
drawn before I saw her, and an attempt had been made to wrench out the
nerve on the left side by the external scission. But it made no
difference: all the clocks in hell tick-tacked in that poor woman's jaw,
and it was the mercy of Providence that ever she came across _me_. My
organisation was found to have almost complete, and quite easy, control
over hers, and with a few passes I could expel her Legion.

'Well, you never saw anyone so singular in personal appearance as my
friend, Miss Wilson. Medicine-man as I am, I could never behold her
suddenly without a sensation of shock: she suggested so inevitably what
we call "the _other_ world," one detecting about her some odour of the
worm, with the feeling that here was rather ghost than woman. And yet I
can hardly convey to you the why of this, except by dry details as to
the contours of her lofty brow, meagre lips, pointed chin, and ashen
cheeks. She was tall and deplorably emaciated, her whole skeleton,
except the thigh-bones, being quite visible. Her eyes were of the bluish
hue of cigarette smoke, and had in them the strangest, feeble, unearthly
gaze; while at thirty-five her paltry wisp of hair was quite white.

'She was well-to-do, and lived alone in old Wooding Manor-house, five
miles from Ash Thomas. As you know, I was "beginning" in these parts at
the time, and soon took up my residence at the manor. She insisted that
I should devote myself to her alone; and that one patient constituted
the most lucrative practice which I ever had.

'Well, I quickly found that, in the state of trance, Miss Wilson
possessed very remarkable powers: remarkable, I mean, not, of course,
because peculiar to herself in _kind_, but because they were so
constant, reliable, exact, and far-reaching, in degree. The veriest
fledgling in psychical science will now sit and discourse finically to
you about the reporting powers of the mind in its trance state--just as
though it was something quite new! This simple fact, I assure you, which
the Psychical Research Society, only after endless investigation, admits
to be scientific, has been perfectly well known to every old crone since
the Middle Ages, and, I assume, long previously. What an unnecessary air
of discovery! The certainty that someone in trance in Manchester can
tell you what is going on in London, or in Pekin, was not, of course,
left to the acumen of an office in Fleet Street; and the society, in
establishing the fact beyond doubt for the general public, has not gone
one step toward explaining it. They have, in fact, revealed nothing that
many of us did not, with absolute assurance, know before.

'But talking of poor Miss Wilson, I say that her powers were
_remarkable_, because, though not exceptional in _genre_, they were so
special in quantity,--so "constant," and "far-reaching." I believe it to
be a fact that, _in general_, the powers of trance manifest themselves
more particularly with regard to space, as distinct from time: the
spirit roams in the present--it travels over a plain--it does not
_usually_ attract the interest of observers by great ascents, or by
great descents. I fancy that is so. But Miss Wilson's gift was special
to this extent, that she travelled in every direction, and easily in all
but one, north and south, up and down, in the past, the present, and the
future.

This I discovered, not at once, but gradually. She would emit a stream
of sounds in the trance state--I can hardly call it _speech_, so
murmurous, yet guttural, was the utterance, mixed with puffy
breath-sounds at the languid lips. This state was accompanied by an
intense contraction of the pupils, absence of the knee-jerk,
considerable rigor, and a rapt and arrant expression. I got into the
habit of sitting long hours at her bed-side, quite fascinated by her,
trying to catch the import of that opiate and visionary language which
came puffing and fluttering in deliberate monotone from her lips.
Gradually, in the course of months, my ear learned to detect the words;
"the veil was rent" for me also; and I was able to follow somewhat the
course of her musing and wandering spirit.

At the end of six months I heard her one day repeat some words which
were familiar to me. They were these: "Such were the arts by which the
Romans extended their conquests, and attained the palm of victory; and
the concurring testimony of different authors enables us to describe
them with precision..." I was startled: they are part of Gibbon's
"Decline and Fall," which I easily guessed that she had never read.

I said in a stern voice: "Where are you?"

She replied, "Us are in a room, eight hundred and eleven miles above. A
man is writing. Us are reading."

I may tell you two things: first, that in trance she never spoke of
herself as "I," nor even as "we," but, for some unknown reason, in the
_objective_ way, as "_us_": "us are," she would say--"us will," "us
went"; though, of course, she was an educated lady, and I don't think
ever lived in the West of England, where they say "us" in that way;
secondly, when wandering in the past, she always represented herself as
being "_above_" (the earth?), and higher the further back in time she
went; in describing present events she appears to have felt herself _on_
(the earth); while, as regards the future, she invariably declared that
"_us_" were so many miles "within" (the earth).

To her excursions in this last direction, however, there seemed to exist
certain fixed limits: I say seemed, for I cannot be sure, and only mean
that, in spite of my efforts, she never, in fact, went far in this
direction. Three, four thousand "miles" were common figures on her lips
in describing her distance "above"; but her distance "within" never got
beyond sixty-three. Usually, she would say twenty, twenty-five. She
appeared, in relation to the future, to resemble a diver in the deep
sea, who, the deeper he strives, finds a more resistant pressure, till,
at no great depth, resistance becomes prohibition, and he can no further
strive.

'I am afraid I can't go on: though I had a good deal to tell you about
this lady. During fifteen years, off and on, I sat listening by her dim
bed-side to her murmuring trances! At last my expert ear could detect
the sense of her faintest sigh. I heard the "Decline and Fall" from
beginning to end. Some of her reports were the most frivolous nonsense:
over others I have hung in a horror of interest. Certainly, my friend, I
have heard some amazing words proceed from those wan lips of Mary
Wilson. Sometimes I could hitch her repeatedly to any scene or subject
that I chose by the mere exercise of my will; at others, the flighty
waywardness of her spirit eluded and baffled me: she resisted--she
disobeyed: otherwise I might have sent you, not four note-books, but
twenty, or forty. About the fifth year it struck me that it would be
well to jot down her more connected utterances, since I knew shorthand.

The note-book marked "I.," [1] which seems to me the most curious,
belongs to the seventh year. Its history, like those of the other three,
is this: I heard her one afternoon murmuring in the intonation used when
_reading_; the matter interested me; I asked her where she was. She
replied: "Us are forty-five miles within: us read, and another writes";
from which I concluded that she was some fifteen to thirty years in the
future, perusing an as yet unpublished work. After that, during some
weeks, I managed to keep her to the same subject, and finally, I fancy,
won pretty well the whole work. I believe you would find it striking,
and hope you will be able to read my notes.

'But no more of Mary Wilson now. Rather let us think a little of A.L.
Browne, F.R.C.P.!--with a breathing-tube in his trachea, and Eternity
under his pillow...' [Dr. Browne's letter then continues on a subject of
no interest here.]

[The present writer may add that Dr. Browne's prognosis of his own case
proved correct, for he passed away two days after writing the above. My
transcription of the shorthand book marked 'III.' I now proceed to give
without comment, merely reminding the reader that the words form the
substance of a book or document to be written, or to be motived
(according to Miss Wilson) in that Future, which, no less than the Past,
substantively exists in the Present--though, like the Past, we see it
not. I need only add that the title, division into paragraphs, &c., have
been arbitrarily contrived by myself for the sake of form and
convenience.]


[Footnote 1: This I intend to publish under the title of 'The Last
Miracle; 'II.' will bear that of 'The Lord of the Sea'; the present book
is marked 'III.' The perusal of 'IV.' I have yet finished, but so far do
not consider it suitable for publication.]




(_Here begins the note-book marked 'III.'_)




THE PURPLE CLOUD


Well, the memory seems to be getting rather impaired now, rather weak.
What, for instance, was the name of that parson who preached, just
before the _Boreal_ set out, about the wickedness of any further attempt
to reach the North Pole? I have forgotten! Yet four years ago it was
familiar to me as my own name.

Things which took place before the voyage seem to be getting a little
cloudy in the memory now. I have sat here, in the loggia of this Cornish
villa, to write down some sort of account of what has happened--God
knows why, since no eye can ever read it--and at the very beginning I
cannot remember the parson's name.

He was a strange sort of man surely, a Scotchman from Ayrshire, big and
gaunt, with tawny hair. He used to go about London streets in shough
and rough-spun clothes, a plaid flung from one shoulder. Once I saw him
in Holborn with his rather wild stalk, frowning and muttering to
himself. He had no sooner come to London, and opened chapel (I think in
Fetter Lane), than the little room began to be crowded; and when, some
years afterwards, he moved to a big establishment in Kensington, all
sorts of men, even from America and Australia, flocked to hear the
thunderstorms that he talked, though certainly it was not an age apt to
fly into enthusiasms over that species of pulpit prophets and
prophecies. But this particular man undoubtedly did wake the strong dark
feelings that sleep in the heart; his eyes were very singular and
powerful; his voice from a whisper ran gathering, like snow-balls, and
crashed, as I have heard the pack-ice in commotion far yonder in the
North; while his gestures were as uncouth and gawky as some wild man's
of the primitive ages.

Well, this man--what _was_ his name?--Macintosh? Mackay? I think--yes,
that was it! _Mackay_. Mackay saw fit to take offence at the new attempt
to reach the Pole in the _Boreal_; and for three Sundays, when the
preparations were nearing completion, stormed against it at Kensington.

The excitement of the world with regard to the North Pole had at this
date reached a pitch which can only be described as _fevered_, though
that word hardly expresses the strange ecstasy and unrest which
prevailed: for the abstract interest which mankind, in mere desire for
knowledge, had always felt in this unknown region, was now, suddenly, a
thousand and a thousand times intensified by a new, concrete interest--a
tremendous _money_ interest.

And the new zeal had ceased to be healthy in its tone as the old zeal
was: for now the fierce demon Mammon was making his voice heard in this
matter.

Within the ten years preceding the _Boreal_ expedition, no less than
twenty-seven expeditions had set out, and failed.

The secret of this new rage lay in the last will and testament of Mr.
Charles P. Stickney of Chicago, that king of faddists, supposed to be
the richest individual who ever lived: he, just ten years before the
_Boreal_ undertaking, had died, bequeathing 175 million dollars to the
man, of whatever nationality, who first reached the Pole.

Such was the actual wording of the will--_'the man who first reached'_:
and from this loose method of designating the person intended had
immediately burst forth a prolonged heat of controversy in Europe and
America as to whether or no the testator meant _the Chief_ of the first
expedition which reached: but it was finally decided, on the highest
legal authority, that, in any case, the actual wording of the document
held good: and that it was the individual, whatever his station in the
expedition, whose foot first reached the 90th degree of north latitude,
who would have title to the fortune.

At all events, the public ferment had risen, as I say, to a pitch of
positive fever; and as to the _Boreal_ in particular, the daily progress
of her preparations was minutely discussed in the newspapers, everyone
was an authority on her fitting, and she was in every mouth a bet, a
hope, a jest, or a sneer: for now, at last, it was felt that success was
probable. So this Mackay had an acutely interested audience, if a
somewhat startled, and a somewhat cynical, one.

A truly lion-hearted man this must have been, after all, to dare
proclaim a point-of-view so at variance with the spirit of his age! One
against four hundred millions, they bent one way, he the opposite,
saying that they were wrong, all wrong! People used to call him 'John
the Baptist Redivivus': and without doubt he did suggest something of
that sort. I suppose that at the time when he had the face to denounce
the _Boreal_ there was not a sovereign on any throne in Europe who, but
for shame, would have been glad of a subordinate post on board.

On the third Sunday night of his denunciation I was there in that
Kensington chapel, and I heard him. And the wild talk he talked! He
seemed like a man delirious with inspiration.

The people sat quite spell-bound, while Mackay's prophesying voice
ranged up and down through all the modulations of thunder, from the
hurrying mutter to the reverberant shock and climax: and those who came
to scoff remained to wonder.

Put simply, what he said was this: That there was undoubtedly some sort
of Fate, or Doom, connected with the Poles of the earth in reference to
the human race: that man's continued failure, in spite of continual
efforts, to reach them, abundantly and super-abundantly proved this; and
that this failure constituted a lesson--_and a warning_--which the race
disregarded at its peril.

The North Pole, he said, was not so very far away, and the difficulties
in the way of reaching it were not, on the face of them, so very great:
human ingenuity had achieved a thousand things a thousand times more
difficult; yet in spite of over half-a-dozen well-planned efforts in
the nineteenth century, and thirty-one in the twentieth, man had never
reached: always he had been baulked, baulked, by some seeming
chance--some restraining Hand: and herein lay the lesson--_herein the
warning_. Wonderfully--really _wonderfully_--like the Tree of
Knowledge in Eden, he said, was that Pole: all the rest of earth lying
open and offered to man--but _That_ persistently veiled and 'forbidden.'
It was as when a father lays a hand upon his son, with: 'Not here, my
child; wheresoever you will--but not here.'

But human beings, he said, were free agents, with power to stop their
ears, and turn a callous consciousness to the whispers and warning
indications of Heaven; and he believed, he said, that the time was now
come when man would find it absolutely in his power to stand on that
90th of latitude, and plant an impious right foot on the head of the
earth--just as it had been given into the absolute power of Adam to
stretch an impious right hand, and pluck of the Fruit of Knowledge; but,
said he--his voice pealing now into one long proclamation of awful
augury--just as the abuse of that power had been followed in the one
case by catastrophe swift and universal, so, in the other, he warned the
entire race to look out thenceforth for nothing from God but a lowering
sky, and thundery weather.

The man's frantic earnestness, authoritative voice, and savage gestures,
could not but have their effect upon all; as for me, I declare, I sat as
though a messenger from Heaven addressed me. But I believe that I had
not yet reached home, when the whole impression of the discourse had
passed from me like water from a duck's back. The Prophet in the
twentieth century was not a success. John Baptist himself, camel-skin
and all, would, have met with only tolerant shrugs. I dismissed Mackay
from my mind with the thought: 'He is behind his age, I suppose.'

But haven't I thought differently of Mackay since, my God...?

       *       *       *       *       *

Three weeks--it was about that--before that Sunday night discourse, I
was visited by Clark, the chief of the coming expedition--a mere visit
of friendship. I had then been established about a year at No. II,
Harley Street, and, though under twenty-five, had, I suppose, as _élite_
a practice as any doctor in Europe.

_Élite_--but small. I was able to maintain my state, and move among the
great: but now and again I would feel the secret pinch of
moneylessness. Just about that time, in fact, I was only saved from
considerable embarrassment by the success of my book, 'Applications of
Science to the Arts.'

In the course of conversation that afternoon, Clark said to me in his
light hap-hazard way:

'Do you know what I dreamed about you last night, Adam Jeffson? I
dreamed that you were with us on the expedition.'

I think he must have seen my start: on the same night I had myself
dreamed the same thing; but not a word said I about it now. There was a
stammer in my tongue when I answered:

'Who? I?--on the expedition?--I would not go, if I were asked.'

'Oh, you would.'

'I wouldn't. You forget that I am about to be married.'

'Well, we need not discuss the point, as Peters is not going to die,'
said he. 'Still, if anything did happen to him, you know, it is you I
should come straight to, Adam Jeffson.'

'Clark, you jest,' I said: 'I know really very little of astronomy, or
magnetic phenomena. Besides, I am about to be married....'

'But what about your botany, my friend? _There's_ what we should be
wanting from you: and as for nautical astronomy, poh, a man with your
scientific habit would pick all that up in no time.'

'You discuss the matter as gravely as though it were a possibility,
Clark,' I said, smiling. 'Such a thought would never enter my head:
there is, first of all, my _fiancée_----'

'Ah, the all-important Countess, eh?--Well, but she, as far as I know
the lady, would be the first to force you to go. The chance of stamping
one's foot on the North Pole does not occur to a man every day, my son.'

'Do talk of something else!' I said. 'There is Peters....'

'Well, of course, there is Peters. But believe me, the dream I had was
so clear----'

'Let me alone with your dreams, and your Poles!' I laughed.

Yes, I remember: I pretended to laugh loud! But my secret heart knew,
even _then_, that one of those crises was occurring in my life which,
from my youth, has made it the most extraordinary which any creature of
earth ever lived. And I knew that this was so, firstly, because of the
two dreams, and secondly, because, when Clark was gone, and I was
drawing on my gloves to go to see my _fiancée_, I heard distinctly the
old two Voices talk within me: and One said: 'Go not to see her now!'
and the Other: 'Yes, go, go!'

The two Voices of my life! An ordinary person reading my words would
undoubtedly imagine that I mean only two ordinary contradictory
impulses--or else that I rave: for what modern man could comprehend how
real-seeming were those voices, how loud, and how, ever and again, I
heard them contend within me, with a nearness 'nearer than breathing,'
as it says in the poem, and 'closer than hands and feet.'

About the age of seven it happened first to me. I was playing one summer
evening in a pine-wood of my father's; half a mile away was a
quarry-cliff; and as I played, it suddenly seemed as if someone said to
me, inside of me: 'Just take a walk toward the cliff'; and as if someone
else said: 'Don't go that way at all'--mere whispers then, which
gradually, as I grew up, seemed to swell into cries of wrathful
contention! I did go toward the cliff: it was steep, thirty feet high,
and I fell. Some weeks later, on recovering speech, I told my astonished
mother that 'someone had pushed me' over the edge, and that someone else
'had caught me' at the bottom!

One night, soon after my eleventh birthday, lying in bed, the thought
struck me that my life must be of great importance to some thing or
things which I could not see; that two Powers, which hated each other,
must be continually after me, one wishing for some reason to kill me,
and the other for some reason to keep me alive, one wishing me to do so
and so, and the other to do the opposite; that I was not a boy like
other boys, but a creature separate, special, marked for--something.
Already I had notions, touches of mood, passing instincts, as occult and
primitive, I verily believe, as those of the first man that stepped; so
that such Biblical expressions as 'The Lord spake to So-and-so, saying'
have hardly ever suggested any question in my mind as to how the Voice
was heard: I did not find it so very difficult to comprehend that
originally man had more ears than two; nor should have been surprised to
know that I, in these latter days, more or less resembled those primeval
ones.

But not a creature, except perhaps my mother, has ever dreamed me what I
here state that I was. I seemed the ordinary youth of my time, bow in my
'Varsity eight, cramming for exams., dawdling in clubs. When I had to
decide as to a profession, who could have suspected the conflict that
transacted itself in my soul, while my brain was indifferent to the
matter--that agony of strife with which the brawling voices shouted, the
one: 'Be a scientist--a doctor,' and the other: 'Be a lawyer, an
engineer, an artist--be _anything_ but a doctor!'

A doctor I became, and went to what had grown into the greatest of
medical schools--Cambridge; and there it was that I came across a man,
named Scotland, who had a rather odd view of the world. He had rooms, I
remember, in the New Court at Trinity, and a set of us were generally
there. He was always talking about certain 'Black' and 'White Powers,
till it became absurd, and the men used to call him
'black-and-white-mystery-man,' because, one day, when someone said
something about 'the black mystery of the universe,' Scotland
interrupted him with the words: 'the black-and-white mystery.'

Quite well I remember Scotland now--the sweetest, gentle soul he was,
with a passion for cats, and Sappho, and the Anthology, very short in
stature, with a Roman nose, continually making the effort to keep his
neck straight, and draw his paunch in. He used to say that the universe
was being frantically contended for by two Powers: a White and a Black;
that the White was the stronger, but did not find the conditions on our
particular planet very favourable to his success; that he had got the
best of it up to the Middle Ages in Europe, but since then had been
slowly and stubbornly giving way before the Black; and that finally the
Black would win--not everywhere perhaps, but _here_--and would carry
off, if no other earth, at least _this_ one, for his prize.

This was Scotland's doctrine, which he never tired of repeating; and
while others heard him with mere toleration, little could they divine
with what agony of inward interest, I, cynically smiling there, drank in
his words. Most profound, most profound, was the impression they made
upon me.

       *       *       *       *       *

But I was saying that when Clark left me, I was drawing on my gloves to
go to see my _fiancée_, the Countess Clodagh, when I heard the two
voices most clearly.

Sometimes the urgency of one or other impulse is so overpowering, that
there is no resisting it: and it was so then with the one that bid me
go.

I had to traverse the distance between Harley Street and Hanover Square,
and all the time it was as though something shouted at my physical ear:
'Since you go, breathe no word of the _Boreal_, and Clark's visit'; and
another shout: 'Tell, tell, hide nothing!'

It seemed to last a month: yet it was only some minutes before I was in
Hanover Square, and Clodagh in my arms.

She was, in my opinion, the most superb of creatures, Clodagh--that
haughty neck which seemed always scorning something just behind her left
shoulder. Superb! but ah--I know it now--a godless woman, Clodagh, a
bitter heart.

Clodagh once confessed to me that her favourite character in history was
Lucrezia Borgia, and when she saw my horror, immediately added: 'Well,
no, I am only joking!' Such was her duplicity: for I see now that she
lived in the constant effort to hide her heinous heart from me. Yet, now
I think of it, how completely did Clodagh enthral me!

Our proposed marriage was opposed by both my family and hers: by mine,
because her father and grandfather had died in lunatic asylums; and by
hers, because, forsooth, I was neither a rich nor a noble match. A
sister of hers, much older than herself, had married a common country
doctor, Peters of Taunton, and this so-called _mésalliance_ made the
so-called _mésalliance_ with me doubly detestable in the eyes of her
relatives. But Clodagh's extraordinary passion for me was to be stemmed
neither by their threats nor prayers. What a flame, after all, was
Clodagh! Sometimes she frightened me.

She was at this date no longer young, being by five years my senior, as
also, by five years, the senior of her nephew, born from the marriage of
her sister with Peters of Taunton. This nephew was Peter Peters, who was
to accompany the _Boreal_ expedition as doctor, botanist, and
meteorological assistant.

On that day of Clark's visit to me I had not been seated five minutes
with Clodagh, when I said:

'Dr. Clark--ha! ha! ha!--has been talking to me about the Expedition. He
says that if anything happened to Peters, I should be the first man he
would run to. He has had an absurd dream...'

The consciousness that filled me as I uttered these words was the
_wickedness_ of me--the crooked wickedness. But I could no more help it
than I could fly.

Clodagh was standing at a window holding a rose at her face. For quite a
minute she made no reply. I saw her sharp-cut, florid face in profile,
steadily bent and smelling. She said presently in her cold, rapid way:

'The man who first plants his foot on the North Pole will certainly be
ennobled. I say nothing of the many millions... I only wish that I was
a man!'

'I don't know that I have any special ambition that way,' I rejoined. 'I
am very happy in my warm Eden with my Clodagh. I don't like the outer
Cold.'

'Don't let me think little of you!' she answered pettishly.

'Why should you, Clodagh? I am not bound to desire to go to the North
Pole, am I?'

'But you _would_ go, I suppose, if you could?'

'I might--I--doubt it. There is our marriage....'

'Marriage indeed! It is the one thing to transform our marriage from a
sneaking difficulty to a ten times triumphant event.'

'You mean if _I_ personally were the first to stand at the Pole. But
there are many in an expedition. It is very unlikely that _I_,
personally--'

'For _me_ you will, Adam--' she began.

'"_Will_," Clodagh?' I cried. 'You say "_will_"? there is not even the
slightest shadow of a probability--!'

'But why? There are still three weeks before the start. They say...'

She stopped, she stopped.

'They say what?'

Her voice dropped:

'That Peter takes atropine.'

Ah, I started then. She moved from the window, sat in a rocking-chair,
and turned the leaves of a book, without reading. We were silent, she
and I; I standing, looking at her, she drawing the thumb across the
leaf-edges, and beginning again, contemplatively. Then she laughed dryly
a little--a dry, mad laugh.

'Why did you start when I said that?' she asked, reading now at random.

'_I_! I did not start, Clodagh! What made you think that I started? I
did not start! Who told you, Clodagh, that Peters takes atropine?'

'He is my nephew: I should know. But don't look dumbfoundered in that
absurd fashion: I have no intention of poisoning him in order to see you
a multimillionaire, and a Peer of the Realm....'

'My dearest Clodagh!'

'I easily might, however. He will be here presently. He is bringing Mr.
Wilson for the evening.' (Wilson was going as electrician of the
expedition.)

'Clodagh.' I said, 'believe me, you jest in a manner which does not
please me.'

'Do I really?' she answered with that haughty, stiff half-turn of her
throat: 'then I must be more exquisite. But, thank Heaven, it is only a
jest. Women are no longer admired for doing such things.'

'Ha! ha! ha!--no--no logger admired, Clodagh! Oh, my good Lord! let us
change this talk....'

But now she could talk of nothing else. She got from me that afternoon
the history of all the Polar expeditions of late years, how far they
reached, by what aids, and why they failed. Her eyes shone; she listened
eagerly. Before this time, indeed, she had been interested in the
_Boreal_, knew the details of her outfitting, and was acquainted with
several members of the expedition. But now, suddenly, her mind seemed
wholly possessed, my mention of Clark's visit apparently setting her
well a-burn with the Pole-fever.

The passion of her kiss as I tore myself from her embrace that day I
shall not forget. I went home with a pretty heavy heart.

The house of Dr. Peter Peters was three doors from mine, on the opposite
side of the street. Toward one that night, his footman ran to knock me
up with the news that Peters was very ill. I hurried to his bed-side,
and knew by the first glance at his deliriums and his staring pupils
that he was poisoned with atropine. Wilson, the electrician, who had
passed the evening with him at Clodagh's in Hanover Square, was there.

'What on earth is the matter?' he said to me.

'Poisoned,' I answered.

'Good God! what with?'

'Atropine.'

'Good Heavens!'

'Don't be frightened: I think he will recover.'

'Is that certain?'

'Yes, I think--that is, if he leaves off taking the drug, Wilson.'

'What! it is he who has poisoned himself?'

I hesitated, I hesitated. But I said:

'He is in the habit of taking atropine, Wilson.'

Three hours I remained there, and, God knows, toiled hard for his life:
and when I left him in the dark of the fore-day, my mind was at rest: he
would recover.

I slept till 11 A.M., and then hurried over again to Peters. In the room
were my two nurses, and Clodagh.

My beloved put her forefinger to her lips, whispering:

'Sh-h-h! he is asleep....'

She came closer to my ear, saying:

'I heard the news early. I am come to stay with him, till--the last....'

We looked at each other some time--eye to eye, steadily, she and I: but
mine dropped before Clodagh's. A word was on my mouth to say, but I said
nothing.

The recovery of Peters was not so steady as I had expected. At the end
of the first week he was still prostrate. It was then that I said to
Clodagh:

'Clodagh, your presence at the bed-side here somehow does not please me.
It is so unnecessary.'

'Unnecessary certainly,' she replied: 'but I always had a genius for
nursing, and a passion for watching the battles of the body. Since no
one objects, why should you?'

'Ah!... I don't know. This is a case that I dislike. I have half a mind
to throw it to the devil.'

'Then do so.'

'And you, too--go home, go home, Clodagh!'

'But _why_?--if one does no harm. In these days of "the corruption of
the upper classes," and Roman decadence of everything, shouldn't every
innocent whim be encouraged by you upright ones who strive against the
tide? Whims are the brakes of crimes: and this is mine. I find a
sensuous pleasure, almost a sensual, in dabbling in delicate drugs--like
Helen, for that matter, and Medea, and Calypso, and the great antique
women, who were all excellent chymists. To study the human ship in a
gale, and the slow drama of its foundering--isn't that a quite thrilling
distraction? And I want you to get into the habit at once of letting me
have my little way----'

Now she touched my hair with a lofty playfulness that soothed me: but
even then I looked upon the rumpled bed, and saw that the man there was
really very sick.

I have still a nausea to write about it! Lucrezia Borgia in her own age
may have been heroic: but Lucrezia in this late century! One could retch
up the heart...

The man grew sick on that bed, I say. The second week passed, and only
ten days remained before the start of the expedition.

At the end of that second week, Wilson, the electrician, was one evening
sitting by Peter's bedside when I entered.

At the moment, Clodagh was about to administer a dose to Peters; but
seeing me, she put down the medicine-glass on the night table, and came
toward me; and as she came, I saw a sight which stabbed me: for Wilson
took up the deposited medicine-glass, elevated it, looked at it,
smelled into it: and he did it with a kind of hurried, light-fingered
stealth; and he did it with an under-look, and a meaningness of
expression which, I thought, proved mistrust....

Meantime, Clark came each day. He had himself a medical degree, and
about this time I called him in professionally, together with Alleyne of
Cavendish Square, to consultation over Peters. The patient lay in a
semi-coma broken by passionate vomitings, and his condition puzzled us
all. I formally stated that he took atropine--had been originally
poisoned by atropine: but we saw that his present symptoms were not
atropine symptoms, but, it almost seemed, of some other vegetable
poison, which we could not precisely name.

'Mysterious thing,' said Clark to me, when we were alone.

'_I_ don't understand it,' I said.

'Who are the two nurses?'

'Oh, highly recommended people of my own.'

'At any rate, my dream about you comes true, Jeffson. It is clear that
Peters is out of the running now.'

I shrugged.

'I now formally invite you to join the expedition,' said Clark: 'do you
consent?'

I shrugged again.

'Well, if that means consent,' he said, 'let me remind you that you have
only eight days, and all the world to do in them.'

This conversation occurred in the dining-room of Peters' house: and as
we passed through the door, I saw Clodagh gliding down the passage
outside--rapidly--away from us.

Not a word I said to her that day about Clark's invitation. Yet I asked
myself repeatedly: Did she not know of it? Had she not _listened_, and
heard?

However that was, about midnight, to my great surprise, Peters opened
his eyes, and smiled. By noon the next day, his fine vitality, which so
fitted him for an Arctic expedition, had re-asserted itself. He was then
leaning on an elbow, talking to Wilson, and except his pallor, and
strong stomach-pains, there was now hardly a trace of his late approach
to death. For the pains I prescribed some quarter-grain tablets of
sulphate of morphia, and went away.

Now, David Wilson and I never greatly loved each other, and that very
day he brought about a painful situation as between Peters and me, by
telling Peters that I had taken his place in the expedition. Peters, a
touchy fellow, at once dictated a letter of protest to Clark; and Clark
sent Peters' letter to me, marked with a big note of interrogation in
blue pencil.

Now, all Peters' preparations were made, mine not; and he had six days
in which to recover himself. I therefore wrote to Clark, saying that the
changed circumstances of course annulled my acceptance of his offer,
though I had already incurred the inconvenience of negotiating with a
_locum tenens_.

This decided it: Peters was to go, I stay. The fifth day before the
departure dawned. It was a Friday, the 15th June. Peters was now in an
arm-chair. He was cheerful, but with a fevered pulse, and still the
stomach-pains. I was giving him three quarter-grains of morphia a day.
That Friday night, at 11 P.M., I visited him, and found Clodagh there,
talking to him. Peters was smoking a cigar.

'Ah,' Clodagh said, 'I was waiting for you, Adam. I didn't know whether
I was to inject anything to-night. Is it Yes or No?'

'What do you think, Peters?' I said: 'any more pains?'

'Well, perhaps you had better give us another quarter,' he answered:
'there's still some trouble in the tummy off and on.'

'A quarter-grain, then, Clodagh, 'I said.

As she opened the syringe-box, she remarked with a pout:

'Our patient has been naughty! He has taken some more atropine.'

I became angry at once.

'Peters,' I cried, 'you know you have no right to be doing things like
that without consulting me! Do that once more, and I swear I have
nothing further to do with you!'

'Rubbish,' said Peters: 'why all this unnecessary heat? It was a mere
flea-bite. I felt that I needed it.'

'He injected it with his own hand...' remarked Clodagh.

She was now standing at the mantel-piece, having lifted the syringe-box
from the night-table, taken from its velvet lining both the syringe and
the vial containing the morphia tablets, and gone to the mantel-piece to
melt one of the tablets in a little of the distilled water there. Her
back was turned upon us, and she was a long time. I was standing; Peters
in his arm-chair, smoking. Clodagh then began to talk about a Charity
Bazaar which she had visited that afternoon.

She was long, she was long. The crazy thought passed through some dim
region of my soul: 'Why is she so _long_?'

'Ah, that was a pain!' went Peters: 'never mind the bazaar, aunt--think
of the morphia.'

Suddenly an irresistible impulse seized me--to rush upon her, to dash
syringe, tabloids, glass, and all, from her hands. I _must_ have obeyed
it--I was on the tip-top point of obeying--my body already leant prone:
but at that instant a voice at the opened door behind me said:

'Well, how is everything?'

It was Wilson, the electrician, who stood there. With lightning
swiftness I remembered an under-look of mistrust which I had once seen
on his face. Oh, well, I would not, and could not!--she was my love--I
stood like marble...

Clodagh went to meet Wilson with frank right hand, in the left being the
fragile glass containing the injection. My eyes were fastened on her
face: it was full of reassurance, of free innocence. I said to myself:
'I must surely be mad!'

An ordinary chat began, while Clodagh turned up Peters' sleeve, and,
kneeling there, injected his fore-arm. As she rose, laughing at
something said by Wilson, the drug-glass dropped from her hand, and her
heel, by an apparent accident, trod on it. She put the syringe among a
number of others on the mantel-piece.

'Your friend has been naughty, Mr. Wilson,' she said again with that
same pout: 'he has been taking more atropine.'

'Not really?' said Wilson.

'Let me alone, the whole of you,' answered Peters: 'I ain't a child.'

These were the last intelligible words he ever spoke. He died shortly
before 1 A.M. He had been poisoned by a powerful dose of atropine.

From that moment to the moment when the _Boreal_ bore me down the
Thames, all the world was a mere tumbling nightmare to me, of which
hardly any detail remains in my memory. Only I remember the inquest, and
how I was called upon to prove that Peters had himself injected himself
with atropine. This was corroborated by Wilson, and by Clodagh: and the
verdict was in accordance.

And in all that chaotic hurry of preparation, three other things only,
but those with clear distinctness now, I remember.

The first--and chief--is that tempest of words which I heard at
Kensington from that big-mouthed Mackay on the Sunday night. What was it
that led me, busy as I was, to that chapel that night? Well, perhaps I
know.

There I sat, and heard him: and most strangely have those words of his
peroration planted themselves in my brain, when, rising to a passion of
prophecy, he shouted: 'And as in the one case, transgression was
followed by catastrophe swift and universal, so, in the other, I warn
the entire race to look out thenceforth for nothing from God but a
lowering sky, and thundery weather.'

And this second thing I remember: that on reaching home, I walked into
my disordered library (for I had had to hunt out some books), where I
met my housekeeper in the act of rearranging things. She had apparently
lifted an old Bible by the front cover to fling it on the table, for as
I threw myself into a chair my eye fell upon the open print near the
beginning. The print was very large, and a shaded lamp cast a light upon
it. I had been hearing Mackay's wild comparison of the Pole with the
tree of Eden, and that no doubt was the reason why such a start
convulsed me: for my listless eyes had chanced to rest upon some words.

'The woman gave me of the tree, and I did eat....'

And a third thing I remember in all that turmoil of doubt and flurry:
that as the ship moved down with the afternoon tide a telegram was put
into my hand; it was a last word from Clodagh; and she said only this:

'Be first--for Me.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Boreal_ left St. Katherine's Docks in beautiful weather on the
afternoon of the 19th June, full of good hope, bound for the Pole.

All about the docks was one region of heads stretched far in innumerable
vagueness, and down the river to Woolwich a continuous dull roar and
murmur of bees droned from both banks to cheer our departure.

The expedition was partly a national affair, subvented by Government:
and if ever ship was well-found it was the _Boreal_. She had a frame
tougher far than any battle-ship's, capable of ramming some ten yards of
drift-ice; and she was stuffed with sufficient pemmican, codroe,
fish-meal, and so on, to last us not less than six years.

We were seventeen, all told, the five Heads (so to speak) of the
undertaking being Clark (our Chief), John Mew (commander), Aubrey
Maitland (meteorologist), Wilson (electrician), and myself (doctor,
botanist, and assistant meteorologist).

The idea was to get as far east as the 100°, or the 120°, of longitude;
to catch there the northern current; to push and drift our way
northward; and when the ship could no further penetrate, to leave her
(either three, or else four, of us, on ski), and with sledges drawn by
dogs and reindeer make a dash for the Pole.

This had also been the plan of the last expedition--that of the
_Nix_--and of several others. The _Boreal_ only differed from the _Nix_,
and others, in that she was a thing of nicer design, and of more
exquisite forethought.

Our voyage was without incident up to the end of July, when we
encountered a drift of ice-floes. On the 1st August we were at Kabarova,
where we met our coal-ship, and took in a little coal for emergency,
liquid air being our proper motor; also forty-three dogs, four reindeer,
and a quantity of reindeer-moss; and two days later we turned our bows
finally northward and eastward, passing through heavy 'slack' ice under
sail and liquid air in crisp weather, till, on the 27th August, we lay
moored to a floe off the desolate island of Taimur.

The first thing which we saw here was a bear on the shore, watching for
young white-fish: and promptly Clark, Mew, and Lamburn (engineer) went
on shore in the launch, I and Maitland following in the pram, each party
with three dogs.

It was while climbing away inland that Maitland said to me:

'When Clark leaves the ship for the dash to the Pole, it is three, not
two, of us, after all, that he is going to take with him, making a party
of four.'

_I_: 'Is that so? Who knows?'

_Maitland_: 'Wilson does. Clark has let it out in conversation with
Wilson.'

_I_: 'Well, the more the merrier. Who will be the three?'

_Maitland_: 'Wilson is sure to be in it, and there may be Mew, making
the third. As to the fourth, I suppose _I_ shall get left out in the
cold.'

_I_: 'More likely I.'

_Maitland_: 'Well, the race is between us four: Wilson, Mew, you and I.
It is a question of physical fitness combined with special knowledge.
You are too lucky a dog to get left out, Jeffson.'

_I_: 'Well, what does it matter, so long as the expedition as a whole is
successful? That is the main thing.'

_Maitland_: 'Oh yes, that's all very fine talk, Jeffson! But is it quite
sincere? Isn't it rather a pose to affect to despise $175,000,000? _I_
want to be in at the death, and I mean to be, if I can. We are all more
or less self-interested.'

'Look,' I whispered--'a bear.'

It was a mother and cub: and with determined trudge she came wagging her
low head, having no doubt smelled the dogs. We separated on the
instant, doubling different ways behind ice-boulders, wanting her to go
on nearer the shore, before killing; but, passing close, she spied, and
bore down at a trot upon me. I fired into her neck, and at once, with a
roar, she turned tail, making now straight in Maitland's direction. I
saw him run out from cover some hundred yards away, aiming his long-gun:
but no report followed: and in half a minute he was under her fore-paws,
she striking out slaps at the barking, shrinking dogs. Maitland roared
for my help: and at that moment, I, poor wretch, in far worse plight
than he, stood shivering in ague: for suddenly one of those wrangles of
the voices of my destiny was filling my bosom with loud commotion, one
urging me to fly to Maitland's aid, one passionately commanding me be
still. But it lasted, I believe, some seconds only: I ran and got a shot
into the bear's brain, and Maitland leapt up with a rent down his face.

But singular destiny! Whatever I did--if I did evil, if I did good--the
result was the same: tragedy dark and sinister! Poor Maitland was doomed
that voyage, and my rescue of his life was the means employed to make
his death the more certain.

I think that I have already written, some pages back, about a man
called Scotland, whom I met at Cambridge. He was always talking about
certain 'Black' and 'White' beings, and their contention for the earth.
We others used to call him the black-and-white mystery-man, because, one
day--but that is no matter now. Well, with regard to all that, I have a
fancy, a whim of the mind--quite wide of the truth, no doubt--but I have
it here in my brain, and I will write it down now. It is this: that
there may have been some sort of arrangement, or understanding, between
Black and White, as in the case of Adam and the fruit, that, should
mankind force his way to the Pole and the old forbidden secret biding
there, then some mishap should not fail to overtake the race of man;
that the White, being kindly disposed to mankind, did not wish this to
occur, and intended, for the sake of the race, to destroy our entire
expedition before it reached; and that the Black, knowing that the White
meant to do this, and by what means, used me--_me_!--to outwit this
design, first of all working that I should be one of the party of four
to leave the ship on ski.

But the childish attempt, my God, to read the immense riddle of the
world! I could laugh loud at myself, and at poor Black-and-White
Scotland, too. The thing can't be so simple.

Well, we left Taimur the same day, and good-bye now to both land and
open sea. Till we passed the latitude of Cape Chelyuskin (which we did
not sight), it was one succession of ice-belts, with Mew in the
crow's-nest tormenting the electric bell to the engine-room, the anchor
hanging ready to drop, and Clark taking soundings. Progress was slow,
and the Polar night gathered round us apace, as we stole still onward
and onward into that blue and glimmering land of eternal frore. We now
left off bed-coverings of reindeer-skin and took to sleeping-bags. Eight
of the dogs had died by the 25th September, when we were experiencing
19° of frost. In the darkest part of our night, the Northern Light
spread its silent solemn banner over us, quivering round the heavens in
a million fickle gauds.

The relations between the members of our little crew were
excellent--with one exception: David Wilson and I were not good friends.

There was a something--a tone--in the evidence which he had given at the
inquest on Peters, which made me mad every time I thought of it. He had
heard Peters admit just before death that he, Peters, had administered
atropine to himself: and he had had to give evidence of that fact. But
he had given it in a most half-hearted way, so much so, that the coroner
had asked him: 'What, sir, are you hiding from me?' Wilson had replied:
'Nothing. I have nothing to tell.'

And from that day he and I had hardly exchanged ten words, in spite of
our constant companionship in the vessel; and one day, standing alone on
a floe, I found myself hissing with clenched fist: 'If he dared suspect
Clodagh of poisoning Peters, I could _kill_ him!'

Up to 78° of latitude the weather had been superb, but on the night of
the 7th October--well I remember it--we experienced a great storm. Our
tub of a ship rolled like a swing, drenching the whimpering dogs at
every lurch, and hurling everything on board into confusion. The
petroleum-launch was washed from the davits; down at one time to 40°
below zero sank the thermometer; while a high aurora was whiffed into a
dishevelled chaos of hues, resembling the smeared palette of some
turbulent painter of the skies, or mixed battle of long-robed seraphim,
and looking the very symbol of tribulation, tempest, wreck, and
distraction. I, for the first time, was sick.

It was with a dizzy brain, therefore, that I went off watch to my bunk.
Soon, indeed, I fell asleep: but the rolls and shocks of the ship,
combined with the heavy Greenland anorak which I had on, and the state
of my body, together produced a fearful nightmare, in which I was
conscious of a vain struggle to move, a vain fight for breath, for the
sleeping-bag turned to an iceberg on my bosom. Of Clodagh was my gasping
dream. I dreamed that she let fall, drop by drop, a liquid, coloured
like pomegranate-seeds, into a glass of water; and she presented the
glass to Peters. The draught, I knew, was poisonous as death: and in a
last effort to break the bands of that dark slumber, I was conscious, as
I jerked myself upright, of screaming aloud:

'Clodagh! Clodagh! _Spare the man...!_'

My eyes, starting with horror, opened to waking; the electric light was
shining in the cabin; and there stood David Wilson looking at me.

Wilson was a big man, with a massively-built, long face, made longer by
a beard, and he had little nervous contractions of the flesh at the
cheek-bones, and plenty of big freckles. His clinging pose, his smile of
disgust, his whole air, as he stood crouching and lurching there, I can
shut my eyes, and see now.

What he was doing in my cabin I did not know. To think, my good God,
that he should have been led there just then! This was one of the
four-men starboard berths: _his_ was a-port: yet there he was! But he
explained at once.

'Sorry to interrupt your innocent dreams, says he: 'the mercury in
Maitland's thermometer is frozen, and he asked me to hand him his
spirits-of-wine one from his bunk...'

I did not answer. A hatred was in my heart against this man.

The next day the storm died away, and either three or four days later
the slush-ice between the floes froze definitely. The _Boreal's_ way was
thus blocked. We warped her with ice-anchors and the capstan into the
position in which she should lay up for her winter's drift. This was in
about 79° 20' N. The sun had now totally vanished from our bleak sky,
not to reappear till the following year.

Well, there was sledging with the dogs, and bear-hunting among the
hummocks, as the months, one by one, went by. One day Wilson, by far our
best shot, got a walrus-bull; Clark followed the traditional pursuit of
a Chief, examining Crustacea; Maitland and I were in a relation of close
friendship, and I assisted his meteorological observations in a snow-hut
built near the ship. Often, through the twenty-four hours, a clear blue
moon, very spectral, very fair, suffused all our dim and livid clime.

It was five days before Christmas that Clark made the great
announcement: he had determined, he said, if our splendid northward
drift continued, to leave the ship about the middle of next March for
the dash to the Pole. He would take with him the four reindeer, all the
dogs, four sledges, four kayaks, and three companions. The companions
whom he had decided to invite were: Wilson, Mew, and Maitland.

He said it at dinner; and as he said it, David Wilson glanced at my wan
face with a smile of pleased malice: for _I_ was left out.

I remember well: the aurora that night was in the sky, and at its edge
floated a moon surrounded by a ring, with two mock-moons. But all shone
very vaguely and far, and a fog, which had already lasted some days,
made the ship's bows indistinct to me, as I paced the bridge on my
watch, two hours after Clark's announcement.

For a long time all was very still, save for the occasional whine of a
dog. I was alone, and it grew toward the end of my watch, when Maitland
would succeed me. My slow tread tolled like a passing-bell, and the
mountainous ice lay vague and white around me, its sheeted ghastliness
not less dreadfully silent than eternity itself.

Presently, several of the dogs began barking together, left off, and
began again.

I said to myself; 'There is a bear about somewhere.'

And after some five minutes I saw--I thought that I saw--it. The fog
had, if anything thickened; and it was now very near the end of my
watch.

It had entered the ship, I concluded, by the boards which slanted from
an opening in the port bulwarks down to the ice. Once before, in
November, a bear, having smelled the dogs, had ventured on board at
midnight: but _then_ there had resulted a perfect hubbub among the dogs.
_Now_, even in the midst of my excitement, I wondered at their
quietness, though some whimpered--with fear, I thought. I saw the
creature steal forward from the hatchway toward the kennels a-port; and
I ran noiselessly, and seized the watch-gun which stood always loaded by
the companionway.

By this time, the form had passed the kennels, reached the bows, and now
was making toward me on the starboard side. I took aim. Never, I
thought, had I seen so huge a bear--though I made allowance for the
magnifying effect of the fog.

My finger was on the trigger: and at that moment a deathly shivering
sickness took me, the wrangling voices shouted at me, with 'Shoot!'
'Shoot not!' 'Shoot!' Ah well, that latter shout was irresistible. I
drew the trigger. The report hooted through the Polar night.

The creature dropped; both Wilson and Clark were up at once: and we
three hurried to the spot.

But the very first near glance showed a singular kind of bear. Wilson
put his hand to the head, and a lax skin came away at his touch.... It
was Aubrey Maitland who was underneath it, and I had shot him dead.

For the past few days he had been cleaning skins, among them the skin of
the bear from which I had saved him at Taimur. Now, Maitland was a born
pantomimist, continually inventing practical jokes; and perhaps to
startle me with a false alarm in the very skin of the old Bruin which
had so nearly done for him, he had thrown it round him on finishing its
cleaning, and so, in mere wanton fun, had crept on deck at the hour of
his watch. The head of the bear-skin, and the fog, must have prevented
him from seeing me taking aim.

This tragedy made me ill for weeks. I saw that the hand of Fate was upon
me. When I rose from bed, poor Maitland was lying in the ice behind the
great camel-shaped hummock near us.

By the end of January we had drifted to 80° 55'; and it was then that
Clark, in the presence of Wilson, asked me if I would make the fourth
man, in the place of poor Maitland, for the dash in the spring. As I
said 'Yes, I am willing,' David Wilson spat with a disgusted emphasis. A
minute later he sighed, with 'Ah, poor Maitland...' and drew in his
breath with a _tut! tut!_

God knows, I had an impulse to spring then and there at his throat, and
strangle him: but I curbed myself.

There remained now hardly a month before the dash, and all hands set to
work with a will, measuring the dogs, making harness and seal-skin shoes
for them, overhauling sledges and kayaks, and cutting every possible
ounce of weight. But we were not destined, after all, to set out that
year. About the 20th February, the ice began to pack, and the ship was
subjected to an appalling pressure. We found it necessary to make
trumpets of our hands to shout into one another's ears, for the whole
ice-continent was crashing, popping, thundering everywhere in terrific
upheaval. Expecting every moment to see the _Boreal_ crushed to
splinters, we had to set about unpacking provisions, and placing
sledges, kayaks, dogs and everything in a position for instant flight.
It lasted five days, and was accompanied by a tempest from the north,
which, by the end of February, had driven us back south into latitude
79° 40'. Clark, of course, then abandoned the thought of the Pole for
that summer.

And immediately afterwards we made a startling discovery: our stock of
reindeer-moss was found to be somehow ridiculously small. Egan, our
second mate, was blamed; but that did not help matters: the sad fact
remained. Clark was advised to kill one or two of the deer, but he
pig-headedly refused: and by the beginning of summer they were all dead.

Well, our northward drift recommenced. Toward the middle of February we
saw a mirage of the coming sun above the horizon; there were flights of
Arctic petrels and snow-buntings; and spring was with us. In an ice-pack
of big hummocks and narrow lanes we made good progress all the summer.

When the last of the deer died, my heart sank; and when the dogs killed
two of their number, and a bear crushed a third, I was fully expecting
what actually came; it was this: Clark announced that he could now take
only two companions with him in the spring: and they were Wilson and
Mew. So once more I saw David Wilson's pleased smile of malice.

We settled into our second winter-quarters. Again came December, and all
our drear sunless gloom, made worse by the fact that the windmill would
not work, leaving us without the electric light.

Ah me, none but those who have felt it could dream of one half the
mental depression of that long Arctic night; how the soul takes on the
hue of the world; and without and within is nothing but gloom, gloom,
and the reign of the Power of Darkness.

Not one of us but was in a melancholic, dismal and dire mood; and on the
13th December Lamburn, the engineer, stabbed Cartwright, the old
harpooner, in the arm.

Three days before Christmas a bear came close to the ship, and then
turned tail. Mew, Wilson, I and Meredith (a general hand) set out in
pursuit. After a pretty long chase we lost him, and then scattered
different ways. It was very dim, and after yet an hour's search, I was
returning weary and disgusted to the ship, when I saw some shadow like a
bear sailing away on my left, and at the same time sighted a man--I did
not know whom--running like a handicapped ghost some little distance to
the right. So I shouted out:

'There he is--come on! This way!'

The man quickly joined me, but as soon as ever he recognised me, stopped
dead. The devil must have suddenly got into him, for he said:

'No, thanks, Jeffson: alone with you I am in danger of my life....'

It was Wilson. And I, too, forgetting at once all about the bear,
stopped and faced him.

'I see,' said I. 'But, Wilson, you are going to explain to me _now_ what
you mean, you hear? What _do_ you mean, Wilson?'

'What I say,' he answered deliberately, eyeing me up and down: 'alone
with you I am in danger of my life. Just as poor Maitland was, and just
as poor Peters was. Certainly, you are a deadly beast.'

Fury leapt, my God, in my heart. Black as the tenebrous Arctic night was
my soul.

'Do you mean,' said I, 'that I want to put you out of the way in order
to go in your place to the Pole? Is that your meaning, man?'

'That's about my meaning, Jeffson,' says he: 'you are a deadly beast,
you know.'

'Stop!' I said, with blazing eye. 'I am going to kill _you_, Wilson--as
sure as God lives: but I want to hear first. Who _told_ you that I
killed Peters?'

'Your lover killed him--with _your_ collusion. Why, I heard you, man, in
your beastly sleep, calling the whole thing out. And I was pretty sure
of it before, only I had no proofs. By God, I should enjoy putting a
bullet into you, Jeffson!'

'You wrong me--you, you wrong me!' I shrieked, my eyes staring with
ravenous lust for his blood; 'and now I am going to pay you well for it.
_Look out, you!_'

I aimed my gun for his heart, and I touched the trigger. He held up his
left hand.

'Stop,' he said, 'stop.' (He was one of the coolest of men ordinarily.)
'There is no gallows on the _Boreal_, but Clark could easily rig one for
you. I want to kill you, too, because there are no criminal courts up
here, and it would be doing a good action for my country. But not
here--not now. Listen to me--don't shoot. Later we can meet, when all is
ready, so that no one may be the wiser, and fight it all out.'

As he spoke I let the gun drop. It was better so. I knew that he was
much the best shot on the ship, and I an indifferent one: but I did not
care, I did not care, if I was killed.

It is a dim, inclement land, God knows: and the spirit of darkness and
distraction is there.

Twenty hours later we met behind the great saddle-shaped hummock, some
six miles to the S.E. of the ship. We had set out at different times, so
that no one might suspect. And each brought a ship's-lantern.

Wilson had dug an ice-grave near the hummock, leaving at its edge a
heap of brash-ice and snow to fill it. We stood separated by an interval
of perhaps seventy yards, the grave between us, each with a lantern at
his feet.

Even so we were mere shadowy apparitions one to the other. The air
glowered very drearily, and present in my inmost soul were the frills of
cold. A chill moon, a mere abstraction of light, seemed to hang far
outside the universe. The temperature was at 55° below zero, so that we
had on wind-clothes over our anoraks, and heavy foot-bandages under our
Lap boots. Nothing but a weird morgue seemed the world, haunted with
despondent madness; and exactly like that world about us were the minds
of us two poor men, full of macabre, bleak, and funereal feelings.

Between us yawned an early grave for one or other of our bodies.

I heard Wilson cry out:

'Are you ready, Jeffson?'

'Aye, Wilson!' cried I.

'_Then here goes!_' cries he.

Even as he spoke, he fired. Surely, the man was in deadly earnest to
kill me.

But his shot passed harmlessly by me: as indeed was only likely: we
were mere shadows one to the other.

I fired perhaps ten seconds later than he: but in those ten seconds he
stood perfectly revealed to me in clear, lavender light.

An Arctic fire-ball had traversed the sky, showering abroad, a
sulphurous glamour over the snow-landscape. Before the intenser blue of
its momentary shine had passed away, I saw Wilson stagger forward, and
drop. And him and his lantern I buried deep there under the rubble ice.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 13th March, nearly three months later, Clark, Mew and I left the
Boreal in latitude 85° 15'.

We had with us thirty-two dogs, three sledges, three kayaks, human
provisions for 112 days, and dog provisions for 40. Being now about 340
miles from the Pole, we hoped to reach it in 43 days, then, turning
south, and feeding living dogs with dead, make either Franz Josef Land
or Spitzbergen, at which latter place we should very likely come up with
a whaler.

Well, during the first days, progress was very slow, the ice being rough
and laney, and the dogs behaving most badly, stopping dead at every
difficulty, and leaping over the traces. Clark had had the excellent
idea of attaching a gold-beater's-skin balloon, with a lifting power of
35 pounds, to each sledge, and we had with us a supply of zinc and
sulphuric-acid to repair the hydrogen-waste from the bags; but on the
third day Mew over-filled and burst his balloon, and I and Clark had to
cut ours loose in order to equalise weights, for we could neither leave
him behind, turn back to the ship, nor mend the bag. So it happened that
at the end of the fourth day out, we had made only nineteen miles, and
could still from a hummock discern afar the leaning masts of the old
Boreal. Clark led on ski, captaining a sledge with 400 lbs. of
instruments, ammunition, pemmican, aleuronate bread; Mew followed, his
sledge containing provisions only; and last came I, with a mixed
freight. But on the third day Clark had an attack of snow-blindness, and
Mew took his place.

Pretty soon our sufferings commenced, and they were bitter enough. The
sun, though constantly visible day and night, gave no heat. Our
sleeping-bags (Clark and Mew slept together in one, I in another) were
soaking wet all the night, being thawed by our warmth; and our fingers,
under wrappings of senne-grass and wolf-skin, were always bleeding.
Sometimes our frail bamboo-cane kayaks, lying across the sledges, would
crash perilously against an ice-ridge--and they were our one hope of
reaching land. But the dogs were the great difficulty: we lost six
mortal hours a day in harnessing and tending them. On the twelfth day
Clark took a single-altitude observation, and found that we were only in
latitude 86° 45'; but the next day we passed beyond the furthest point
yet reached by man, viz. 86° 53', attained by the _Nix_ explorers four
years previously.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our one secret thought now was food, food--our day-long lust for the
eating-time. Mew suffered from 'Arctic thirst.

       *       *       *       *       *

Under these conditions, man becomes in a few days, not a savage only,
but a mere beast, hardly a grade above the bear and walrus. Ah, the ice!
A long and sordid nightmare was that, God knows.

On we pressed, crawling our little way across the Vast, upon whose hoar
silence, from Eternity until then, Bootes only, and that Great Bear, had
watched.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the eleventh day our rate of march improved: all lanes
disappeared, and ridges became much less frequent. By the fifteenth day
I was leaving behind the ice-grave of David Wilson at the rate of ten to
thirteen miles a day.

Yet, as it were, his arm reached out and touched me, even there.

His disappearance had been explained by a hundred different guesses on
the ship--all plausible enough. I had no idea that anyone connected me
in any way with his death.

But on our twenty-second day of march, 140 miles from our goal, he
caused a conflagration of rage and hate to break out among us three.

It was at the end of a march, when our stomachs were hollow, our frames
ready to drop, and our mood ravenous and inflamed. One of Mew's dogs was
sick: it was necessary to kill it: he asked me to do it.

'Oh,' said I, 'you kill your own dog, of course.'

'Well, I don't know,' he replied, catching fire at once, 'you ought to
be used to killing, Jeffson.'

'How do you mean, Mew?' said I with a mad start, for madness and the
flames of Hell were instant and uppermost in us all: 'you mean because
my profession----'

'Profession! damn it, no,' he snarled like a dog: 'go and dig up David
Wilson--I dare say you know where to find him--and he will tell you my
meaning, right enough.'

I rushed at once to Clark, who was stooping among the dogs,
unharnessing: and savagely pushing his shoulder, I exclaimed:

'That beast accuses me of murdering David Wilson!'

'Well?' said Clark.

'I'd split his skull as clean----!'

'Go away, Adam Jeffson, and let me be!' snarled Clark.

'Is that all you've got to say about it, then--you?'

'To the devil with you, man, say I, and let me be!' cried he: 'you know
your own conscience best, I suppose.'

Before this insult I stood with grinding teeth, but impotent. However,
from that moment a deeper mood of brooding malice occupied my spirit.
Indeed the humour of us all was one of dangerous, even murderous,
fierceness. In that pursuit of riches into that region of cold, we had
become almost like the beasts that perish.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 10th April we passed the 89th parallel of latitude, and though
sick to death, both in spirit and body, pressed still on. Like the lower
animals, we were stricken now with dumbness, and hardly once in a week
spoke a word one to the other, but in selfish brutishness on through a
real hell of cold we moved. It is a cursed region--beyond doubt
cursed--not meant to be penetrated by man: and rapid and awful was the
degeneration of our souls. As for me, never could I have conceived that
savagery so heinous could brood in a human bosom as now I felt it brood
in mine. If men could enter into a country specially set apart for the
habitation of devils, and there become possessed of evil, as we were so
would they be.

       *       *       *       *       *

As we advanced, the ice every day became smoother; so that, from four
miles a day, our rate increased to fifteen, and finally (as the sledges
lightened) to twenty.

It was now that we began to encounter a succession of strange-looking
objects lying scattered over the ice, whose number continually
increased as we proceeded. They had the appearance of rocks, or pieces
of iron, incrusted with glass-fragments of various colours, and they
were of every size. Their incrustations we soon determined to be
diamonds, and other precious stones. On our first twenty-mile day Mew
picked up a diamond-crystal as large as a child's foot, and such objects
soon became common. We thus found the riches which we sought, beyond all
dream; but as the bear and the walrus find them: for ourselves we had
lost; and it was a loss of riches barren as ashes, for for all those
millions we would not have given an ounce of fish-meal. Clark grumbled
something about their being meteor-stones, whose ferruginous substance
had been lured by the magnetic Pole, and kept from frictional burning in
their fall by the frigidity of the air: and they quickly ceased to
interest our sluggish minds, except in so far as they obstructed our
way.

       *       *       *       *       *

We had all along had good weather: till, suddenly, on the morning of the
13th April, we were overtaken by a tempest from the S.W., of such mighty
and solemn volume that the heart quailed beneath it. It lasted in its
full power only an hour, but during that time snatched two of our
sledges long distances, and compelled us to lie face-downward. We had
travelled all the sun-lit night, and were gasping with fatigue; so as
soon as the wind allowed us to huddle together our scattered things, we
crawled into the sleeping-bags, and instantly slept.

We knew that the ice was in awful upheaval around us; we heard, as our
eyelids sweetly closed, the slow booming of distant guns, and brittle
cracklings of artillery. This may have been a result of the tempest
stirring up the ocean beneath the ice. Whatever it was, we did not care:
we slept deep.

We were within ten miles of the Pole.

       *       *       *       *       *

In my sleep it was as though someone suddenly shook my shoulder with
urgent '_Up! up_!' It was neither Clark nor Mew, but a dream merely: for
Clark and Mew, when I started up, I saw lying still in their
sleeping-bag.

I suppose it must have been about noon. I sat staring a minute, and my
first numb thought was somehow this: that the Countess Clodagh had
prayed me 'Be first'--for her. Wondrous little now cared I for the
Countess Clodagh in her far unreal world of warmth--precious little for
the fortune which she coveted: millions on millions of fortunes lay
unregarded around me. But that thought, _Be first!_ was deeply suggested
in my brain, as if whispered there. Instinctively, brutishly, as the
Gadarean swine rushed down a steep place, I, rubbing my daft eyes,
arose.

The first thing which my mind opened to perceive was that, while the
tempest was less strong, the ice was now in extraordinary agitation. I
looked abroad upon a vast plain, stretched out to a circular, but waving
horizon, and varied by many hillocks, boulders, and sparkling
meteor-stones that everywhere tinselled the blinding white, some big as
houses, most small as limbs. And this great plain was now rearranging
itself in a widespread drama of havoc, withdrawing in ravines like
mutual backing curtsies, then surging to clap together in passionate
mountain-peaks, else jostling like the Symplegades, fluent and
inconstant as billows of the sea, grinding itself, piling itself,
pouring itself in cataracts of powdered ice, while here and there I saw
the meteor-stones leap spasmodically, in dusts and heaps, like geysers
or spurting froths in a steamer's wake, a tremendous uproar, meantime,
filling all the air. As I stood, I plunged and staggered, and I found
the dogs sprawling, with whimperings, on the heaving floor.

I did not care. Instinctively, daftly, brutishly, I harnessed ten of
them to my sledge; put on Canadian snow-shoes: and was away
northward--alone.

The sun shone with a clear, benign, but heatless shining: a ghostly,
remote, yet quite limpid light, which seemed designed for the lighting
of other planets and systems, and to strike here by happy chance. A
great wind from the S.W., meantime, sent thin snow-sweepings flying
northward past me.

The odometer which I had with me had not yet measured four miles, when I
began to notice two things: first that the jewelled meteor-stones were
now accumulating beyond all limit, filling my range of vision to the
northern horizon with a dazzling glister: in mounds, and parterres, and
scattered disconnection they lay, like largesse of autumn leaves, spread
out over those Elysian fields and fairy uplands of wealth, trillions of
billions, so that I had need to steer my twining way among them. Now,
too, I noticed that, but for these stones, all roughness had
disappeared, not a trace of the upheaval going on a little further south
being here, for the ice lay positively as smooth as a table before me.
It is my belief that this stretch of smooth ice has never, never felt
one shock, or stir, or throe, and reaches right down to the bottom of
the deep.

       *       *       *       *       *

And now with a wild hilarity I flew. Gradually, a dizziness, a lunacy,
had seized upon me, till finally, up-buoyed on air, and dancing mad, I
sped, I spun, with grinning teeth that chattered and gibbered, and
eyeballs of distraction: for a Fear, too--most cold and dreadful--had
its hand of ice upon my heart, I being so alone in that place, face to
face with the Ineffable: but still with a giddy levity, and a fatal joy,
and a blind hilarity, on I sped, I spun.

       *       *       *       *       *

The odometer measured nine miles from my start. I was in the immediate
neighbourhood of the Pole.

I cannot say when it began, but now I was conscious of a sound in my
ears, distinct and near, a steady sound of splashing, or fluttering,
resembling the noising of a cascade or brook: and it grew. Forty more
steps I took (slide I could not now for the meteorites)--perhaps
sixty--perhaps eighty: and now, to my sudden horror, I stood by a
circular clean-cut lake.

One minute only, swaying and nodding there, I stood: and then I dropped
down flat in swoon.

       *       *       *       *       *

In a hundred years, I suppose, I should never succeed in analysing
_why_ I swooned: but my consciousness still retains the impression of
that horrid thrill. I saw nothing distinctly, for my whole being reeled
and toppled drunken, like a spinning-top in desperate death-struggle at
the moment when it flags, and wobbles dissolutely to fall; but the very
instant that my eyes met what was before me, I knew, I knew, that here
was the Sanctity of Sanctities, the old eternal inner secret of the Life
of this Earth, which it was a most burning shame for a man to see. The
lake, I fancy, must be a mile across, and in its middle is a pillar of
ice, very low and broad; and I had the clear impression, or dream, or
notion, that there was a name, or word, graven all round in the ice of
the pillar in characters which I could never read; and under the name a
long date; and the fluid of the lake seemed to me to be wheeling with a
shivering ecstasy, splashing and fluttering, round the pillar, always
from west to east, in the direction of the spinning of the earth; and it
was borne in upon me--I can't at all say how--that this fluid was the
substance of a living creature; and I had the distinct fancy, as my
senses failed, that it was a creature with many dull and anguished eyes,
and that, as it wheeled for ever round in fluttering lust, it kept its
eyes always turned upon the name and the date graven in the pillar. But
this must be my madness....

       *       *       *       *       *

It must have been not less than an hour before a sense of life returned
to me; and when the thought stabbed my brain that a long, long time I
had lain there in the presence of those gloomy orbs, my spirit seemed to
groan and die within me.

In some minutes, however, I had scrambled to my feet, clutched at a
dog's harness, and without one backward glance, was flying from that
place.

Half-way to the halting-place, I waited Clark and Mew, being very sick
and doddering, and unable to advance. But they did not come.

Later on, when I gathered force to go further, I found that they had
perished in the upheaval of the ice. One only of the sledges, half
buried, I saw near the spot of our bivouac.

       *       *       *       *       *

Alone that same day I began my way southward, and for five days made
good progress. On the eighth day I noticed, stretched right across the
south-eastern horizon, a region of purple vapour which luridly obscured
the face of the sun: and day after day I saw it steadily brooding
there. But what it could be I did not understand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, onward through the desert ice I continued my lonely way, with a
baleful shrinking terror in my heart; for very stupendous, alas! is the
burden of that Arctic solitude upon one poor human soul.

Sometimes on a halt I have lain and listened long to the hollow silence,
recoiling, crushed by it, hoping that at least one of the dogs might
whine. I have even crept shivering from the thawed sleeping-bag to flog
a dog, so that I might hear a sound.

I had started from the Pole with a well-filled sledge, and the sixteen
dogs left alive from the ice-packing which buried my comrades. This was
on the evening of the 13th April. I had saved from the wreck of our
things most of the whey-powder, pemmican, &c., as well as the
theodolite, compass, chronometer, train-oil lamp for cooking, and other
implements: I was therefore in no doubt as to my course, and I had
provisions for ninety days. But ten days from the start my supply of
dog-food failed, and I had to begin to slaughter my only companions, one
by one.

Well, in the third week the ice became horribly rough, and with moil
and toil enough to wear a bear to death, I did only five miles a day.
After the day's work I would crawl with a dying sigh into the
sleeping-bag, clad still in the load of skins which stuck to me a mere
filth of grease, to sleep the sleep of a swine, indifferent if I never
woke.

Always--day after day--on the south-eastern horizon, brooded sullenly
that curious stretched-out region of purple vapour, like the smoke of
the conflagration of the world. And I noticed that its length constantly
reached out and out, and silently grew.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once I had a very pleasant dream. I dreamed that I was in a garden--an
Arabian paradise--so sweet was the perfume. All the time, however, I had
a sub-consciousness of the gale which was actually blowing from the S.E.
over the ice, and, at the moment when I awoke, was half-wittedly droning
to myself; 'It is a Garden of Peaches; but I am not really in the
garden: I am really on the ice; only, the S.E. storm is wafting to me
the aroma of this Garden of Peaches.'

I opened my eyes--I started--I sprang to my feet! For, of all the
miracles!--I could not doubt--an actual aroma like peach-blossom was in
the algid air about me!

Before I could collect my astonished senses, I began to vomit pretty
violently, and at the same time saw some of the dogs, mere skeletons as
they were, vomiting, too. For a long time I lay very sick in a kind of
daze, and, on rising, found two of the dogs dead, and all very queer.
The wind had now changed to the north.

Well, on I staggered, fighting every inch of my deplorably weary way.
This odour of peach-blossom, my sickness, and the death of the two dogs,
remained a wonder to me.

Two days later, to my extreme mystification (and joy), I came across a
bear and its cub lying dead at the foot of a hummock. I could not
believe my eyes. There she lay on her right side, a spot of dirty-white
in a disordered patch of snow, with one little eye open, and her
fierce-looking mouth also; and the cub lay across her haunch, biting
into her rough fur. I set to work upon her, and allowed the dogs a
glorious feed on the blubber, while I myself had a great banquet on the
fresh meat. I had to leave the greater part of the two carcasses, and I
can feel again now the hankering reluctance--quite unnecessary, as it
turned out--with which I trudged onwards. Again and again I found
myself asking: 'Now, what could have killed those two bears?'

With brutish stolidness I plodded ever on, almost like a walking
machine, sometimes nodding in sleep while I helped the dogs, or
manouvred the sledge over an ice-ridge, pushing or pulling. On the 3rd
June, a month and a half from my start, I took an observation with the
theodolite, and found that I was not yet 400 miles from the Pole, in
latitude 84° 50'. It was just as though some Will, some Will, was
obstructing and retarding me.

However, the intolerable cold was over, and soon my clothes no longer
hung stark on me like armour. Pools began to appear in the ice, and
presently, what was worse, my God, long lanes, across which, somehow, I
had to get the sledge. But about the same time all fear of starvation
passed away: for on the 6th June I came across another dead bear, on the
7th three, and thenceforth, in rapidly growing numbers, I met not bears
only, but fulmars, guillemots, snipes, Ross's gulls, little awks--all,
all, lying dead on the ice. And never anywhere a living thing, save me,
and the two remaining dogs.

If ever a poor man stood shocked before a mystery, it was I now. I had a
big fear on my heart.

On the 2nd July the ice began packing dangerously, and soon another
storm broke loose upon me from the S.W. I left off my trek, and put up
the silk tent on a five-acre square of ice surrounded by lanes: and
_again_--for the second time--as I lay down, I smelled that delightful
strange odour of peach-blossom, a mere whiff of it, and presently
afterwards was taken sick. However, it passed off this time in a couple
of hours.

Now it was all lanes, lanes, alas! yet no open water, and such was the
difficulty and woe of my life, that sometimes I would drop flat on the
ice, and sob: 'Oh, no more, no more, my God: here let me die.' The
crossing of a lane might occupy ten or twelve entire hours, and then, on
the other side I might find another one opening right before me.
Moreover, on the 8th July, one of the dogs, after a feed on blubber,
suddenly died; and there was left me only 'Reinhardt,' a white-haired
Siberian dog, with little pert up-sticking ears, like a cat's. Him, too,
I had to kill on coming to open water.

This did not happen till the 3rd August, nearly four months from the
Pole.

I can't think, my God, that any heart of man ever tholed the appalling
nightmare and black abysm of sensations in which, during those four
long desert months, I weltered: for though I was as a brute, I had a
man's heart to feel. What I had seen, or dreamed, at the Pole followed
and followed me; and if I shut my poor weary eyes to sleep, those others
yonder seemed to watch me still with their distraught and gloomy gaze,
and in my spinning dark dreams spun that eternal ecstasy of the lake.

However, by the 28th July I knew from the look of the sky, and the
absence of fresh-water ice, that the sea could not be far; so I set to
work, and spent two days in putting to rights the now battered kayak.
This done, I had no sooner resumed my way than I sighted far off a
streaky haze, which I knew to be the basalt cliffs of Franz Josef Land;
and in a craziness of joy I stood there, waving my ski-staff about my
head, with the senile cheers of a very old man.

In four days this land was visibly nearer, sheer basaltic cliffs mixed
with glacier, forming apparently a great bay, with two small islands in
the mid-distance; and at fore-day of the 3rd August I arrived at the
definite edge of the pack-ice in moderate weather at about the
freezing-point.

I at once, but with great reluctance, shot Reinhardt, and set to work to
get the last of the provisions, and the most necessary of the
implements, into the kayak, making haste to put out to the toilless
luxury of being borne on the water, after all the weary trudge. Within
fourteen hours I was coasting, with my little lug-sail spread, along the
shore-ice of that land. It was midnight of a calm Sabbath, and low on
the horizon smoked the drowsing red sun-ball, as my canvas skiff lightly
chopped her little way through this silent sea. Silent, silent: for
neither snort of walrus, nor yelp of fox, nor cry of startled kittiwake,
did I hear: but all was still as the jet-black shadow of the cliffs and
glacier on the tranquil sea: and many bodies of dead things strewed the
surface of the water.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I found a little fjord, I went up it to the end where stood a
stretch of basalt columns, looking like a shattered temple of
Antediluvians; and when my foot at last touched land, I sat down there a
long, long time in the rubbly snow, and silently wept. My eyes that
night were like a fountain of tears. For the firm land is health and
sanity, and dear to the life of man; but I say that the great ungenial
ice is a nightmare, and a blasphemy, and a madness, and the realm of the
Power of Darkness.

       *       *       *       *       *

I knew that I was at Franz Josef Land, somewhere or other in the
neighbourhood of C. Fligely (about 82° N.), and though it was so late,
and getting cold, I still had the hope of reaching Spitzbergen that
year, by alternately sailing all open water, and dragging the kayak over
the slack drift-ice. All the ice which I saw was good flat fjord-ice,
and the plan seemed feasible enough; so after coasting about a little,
and then three days' good rest in the tent at the bottom of a ravine of
columnar basalt opening upon the shore, I packed some bear and walrus
flesh, with what artificial food was left, into the kayak, and I set out
early in the morning, coasting the shore-ice with sail and paddle. In
the afternoon I managed to climb a little way up an iceberg, and made
out that I was in a bay whose terminating headlands were invisible. I
accordingly decided to make S.W. by W. to cross it, but, in doing so, I
was hardly out of sight of land, when a northern storm overtook me
toward midnight; before I could think, the little sail was all but
whiffed away, and the kayak upset. I only saved it by the happy chance
of being near a floe with an ice-foot, which, projecting under the
water, gave me foot-hold; and I lay on the floe in a mooning state the
whole night under the storm, for I was half drowned.

And at once, on recovering myself, I abandoned all thought of whalers
and of Europe for that year. Happily, my instruments, &c., had been
saved by the kayak-deck when she capsized.

       *       *       *       *       *

A hundred yards inland from the shore-rim, in a circular place where
there was some moss and soil, I built myself a semi-subterranean Eskimo
den for the long Polar night. The spot was quite surrounded by high
sloping walls of basalt, except to the west, where they opened in a
three-foot cleft to the shore, and the ground was strewn with slabs and
boulders of granite and basalt. I found there a dead she-bear, two
well-grown cubs, and a fox, the latter having evidently fallen from the
cliffs; in three places the snow was quite red, overgrown with a red
lichen, which at first I took for blood. I did not even yet feel secure
from possible bears, and took care to make my den fairly tight, a work
which occupied me nearly four weeks, for I had no tools, save a hatchet,
knife, and metal-shod ski-staff. I dug a passage in the ground two feet
wide, two deep, and ten long, with perpendicular sides, and at its north
end a circular space, twelve feet across, also with perpendicular sides,
which I lined with stones; the whole excavation I covered with
inch-thick walrus-hide, skinned during a whole bitter week from four of
a number that lay about the shore-ice; for ridge-pole I used a thin
pointed rock which I found near, though, even so, the roof remained
nearly flat. This, when it was finished, I stocked well, putting in
everything, except the kayak, blubber to serve both for fuel and
occasional light, and foods of several sorts, which I procured by merely
stretching out the hand. The roof of both circular part and passage was
soon buried under snow and ice, and hardly distinguishable from the
general level of the white-clad ground. Through the passage, if I passed
in or out, I crawled flat, on hands and knees: but that was rare: and in
the little round interior, mostly sitting in a cowering attitude, I
wintered, harkening to the large and windy ravings of darkling December
storms above me.

       *       *       *       *       *

All those months the burden of a thought bowed me; and an unanswered
question, like the slow turning of a mechanism, revolved in my gloomy
spirit: for everywhere around me lay bears, walruses, foxes, thousands
upon thousands of little awks, kittiwakes, snow-owls, eider-ducks,
gulls-dead, dead. Almost the only living things which I saw were some
walruses on the drift-floes: but very few compared with the number
which I expected. It was clear to me that some inconceivable catastrophe
had overtaken the island during the summer, destroying all life about
it, except some few of the amphibia, cetacea, and crustacea.

On the 5th December, having crept out from the den during a southern
storm, I had, for the third time, a distant whiff of that self-same
odour of peach-blossom: but now without any after-effects.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, again came Christmas, the New Year--Spring: and on the 22nd May I
set out with a well-stocked kayak. The water was fairly open, and the
ice so good, that at one place I could sail the kayak over it, the wind
sending me sliding at a fine pace. Being on the west coast of Franz
Josef Land, I was in as favourable a situation as possible, and I turned
my bow southward with much hope, keeping a good many days just in sight
of land. Toward the evening of my third day out I noticed a large flat
floe, presenting far-off a singular and lovely sight, for it seemed
freighted thick with a profusion of pink and white roses, showing in its
clear crystal the empurpled reflection. On getting near I saw that it
was covered with millions of Ross's gulls, all dead, whose pretty rosy
bosoms had given it that appearance.

Up to the 29th June I made good progress southward and westward (the
weather being mostly excellent), sometimes meeting dead bears, floating
away on floes, sometimes dead or living walrus-herds, with troop after
troop of dead kittiwakes, glaucus and ivory gulls, skuas, and every kind
of Arctic fowl. On that last day--the 29th June--I was about to encamp
on a floe soon after midnight, when, happening to look toward the sun,
my eye fell, far away south across the ocean of floes, upon
something--_the masts of a ship_.

A phantom ship, or a real ship: it was all one; real, I must have
instantly felt, it could not be: but at a sight so incredible my heart
set to beating in my bosom as though I must surely die, and feebly
waving the cane oar about my head, I staggered to my knees, and thence
with wry mouth toppled flat.

So overpoweringly sweet was the thought of springing once more, like the
beasts of Circe, from a walrus into a man. At this time I was tearing my
bear's-meat just like a bear; I was washing my hands in walrus-blood to
produce a glairy sort of pink cleanliness, in place of the black grease
which chronically coated them.

Worn as I was, I made little delay to set out for that ship; and I had
not travelled over water and ice four hours when, to my in-describable
joy, I made out from the top of a steep floe that she was the _Boreal_.
It seemed most strange that she should be anywhere hereabouts: I could
only conclude that she must have forced and drifted her way thus far
westward out of the ice-block in which our party had left her, and
perhaps now was loitering here in the hope of picking us up on our way
to Spitzbergen.

In any case, wild was the haste with which I fought my way to be at her,
my gasping mouth all the time drawn back in a _rictus_ of laughter at
the anticipation of their gladness to see me, their excitement to hear
the grand tidings of the Pole attained. Anon I waved the paddle, though
I knew that they could not yet see me, and then I dug deep at the
whitish water. What astonished me was her main-sail and fore-mast
square-sail--set that calm morning; and her screws were still, for she
moved not at all. The sun was abroad like a cold spirit of light,
touching the great ocean-room of floes with dazzling spots, and a tint
almost of rose was on the world, as it were of a just-dead bride in her
spangles and white array. The _Boreal_ was the one little distant
jet-black spot in all this purity: and upon her, as though she were
Heaven, I paddled, I panted. But she was in a queerish state: by 9 A.M.
I could see that. Two of the windmill arms were not there, and half
lowered down her starboard beam a boat hung askew; moreover, soon after
10 I could clearly see that her main-sail had a long rent down the
middle.

I could not at all make her out. She was not anchored, though a
sheet-anchor hung over at the starboard cathead; she was not moored; and
two small ice-floes, one on each side, were sluggishly bombarding her
bows.

I began now to wave the paddle, battling for my breath, ecstatic, crazy
with excitement, each second like a year to me. Very soon I could make
out someone at the bows, leaning well over, looking my way. Something
put it into my head that it was Sallitt, and I began an impassioned
shouting. 'Hi! Sallitt! Hallo! Hi!' I called.

I did not see him move: I was still a good way off: but there he stood,
leaning steadily over, looking my way. Between me and the ship now was
all navigable water among the floes, and the sight of him so visibly
near put into me such a shivering eagerness, that I was nothing else but
a madman for the time, sending the kayak flying with venomous digs in
quick-repeated spurts, and mixing with the diggings my crazy wavings,
and with both the daft shoutings of 'Hallo! Hi! Bravo! I have _been to
the Pole!_'

Well, vanity, vanity. Nearer still I drew: it was broad morning, going
on toward noon: I was half a mile away, I was fifty yards. But on board
the _Boreal_, though now they _must_ have heard me, seen me, I observed
no movement of welcome, but all, all was still as death that still
Arctic morning, my God. Only, the ragged sail flapped a little, and--one
on each side--two ice-floes sluggishly bombarded the bows, with hollow
sounds.

I was certain now that Sallitt it was who looked across the ice: but
when the ship swung a little round, I noticed that the direction of his
gaze was carried with her movement, he no longer looking my way.

'Why, Sallitt!' I shouted reproachfully: 'why, Sallitt, man...!' I
whined.

But even as I shouted and whined, a perfect wild certainty was in my
heart: for an aroma like peach, my God, had been suddenly wafted from
the ship upon me, and I must have very well known then that that
watchful outlook of Sallitt saw nothing, and on the _Boreal_ were dead
men all; indeed, very soon I saw one of his eyes looking like a glass
eye which has slid askew, and glares distraught. And now again my
wretched body failed, and my head dropped forward, where I sat, upon
the kayak-deck.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, after a long time, I lifted myself to look again at that forlorn
and wandering craft. There she lay, quiet, tragic, as it were culpable
of the dark secret she bore; and Sallitt, who had been such good friends
with me, would not cease his stare. I knew quite well why he was there:
he had leant over to vomit, and had leant ever since, his forearms
pressed on the bulwark-beam, his left knee against the boards, and his
left shoulder propped on the cathead. When I came quite near, I saw that
with every bump of the two floes against the bows, his face shook in
response, and nodded a little; strange to say, he had no covering on his
head, and I noted the play of the faint breezes in his uncut hair. After
a time I would approach no more, for I was afraid; I did not dare, the
silence of the ship seemed so sacred and awful; and till late afternoon
I sat there, watching the black and massive hull. Above her water-line
emerged all round a half-floating fringe of fresh-green sea-weed,
proving old neglect; an abortive attempt had apparently been made to
lower, or take in, the larch-wood pram, for there she hung by a jammed
davit-rope, stern up, bow in the water; the only two arms of the
windmill moved this way and that, through some three degrees, with an
_andante_ creaking sing-song; some washed clothes, tied on the bow-sprit
rigging to dry, were still there; the iron casing all round the bluff
bows was red and rough with rust; at several points the rigging was in
considerable tangle; occasionally the boom moved a little with a
tortured skirling cadence; and the sail, rotten, I presume, from
exposure--for she had certainly encountered no bad weather--gave out
anon a heavy languid flap at a rent down the middle. Besides Sallitt,
looking out there where he had jammed himself, I saw no one.

By a paddle-stroke now, and another presently, I had closely approached
her about four in the afternoon, though my awe of the ship was
complicated by that perfume of hers, whose fearful effects I knew. My
tentative approach, however, proved to me, when I remained unaffected,
that, here and now, whatever danger there had been was past; and
finally, by a hanging rope, with a thumping desperation of heart, I
clambered up her beam.

       *       *       *       *       *

They had died, it seemed, very suddenly, for nearly all the twelve were
in poses of activity. Egan was in the very act of ascending the
companion-way; Lamburn was sitting against the chart-room door,
apparently cleaning two carbines; Odling at the bottom of the
engine-room stair seemed to be drawing on a pair of reindeer komagar;
and Cartwright, who was often in liquor, had his arms frozen tight round
the neck of Martin, whom he seemed to be kissing, they two lying stark
at the foot of the mizzen-mast.

Over all--over men, decks, rope-coils--in the cabin, in the
engine-room--between skylight leaves--on every shelf, in every
cranny--lay a purplish ash or dust, very impalpably fine. And steadily
reigning throughout the ship, like the very spirit of death, was that
aroma of peach-blossom.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here it had reigned, as I could see from the log-dates, from the rust on
the machinery, from the look of the bodies, from a hundred indications,
during something over a year. It was, therefore, mainly by the random
workings of winds and currents that this fragrant ship of death had been
brought hither to me.

And this was the first direct intimation which I had that the Unseen
Powers (whoever and whatever they may be), who through the history of
the world had been so very, very careful to conceal their Hand from the
eyes of men, hardly any longer intended to be at the pains to conceal
their Hand from me. It was just as though the Boreal had been openly
presented to me by a spiritual agency, which, though I could not see it,
I could readily apprehend.

       *       *       *       *       *

The dust, though very thin and flighty above-decks, lay thickly
deposited below, and after having made a tour of investigation
throughout the ship, the first thing which I did was to examine
that--though I had tasted nothing all day, and was exhausted to death. I
found my own microscope where I had left it in the box in my berth to
starboard, though I had to lift up Egan to get at it, and to step over
Lamburn to enter the chart-room; but there, toward evening, I sat at the
table and bent to see if I could make anything of the dust, while it
seemed to me as if all the myriad spirits of men that have sojourned on
the earth, and angel and devil, and all Time and all Eternity, hung
silent round for my decision; and such an ague had me, that for a long
time my wandering finger-tips, all ataxic with agitation, eluded every
delicate effort which I made, and I could nothing do. Of course, I know
that an odour of peach-blossom in the air, resulting in death, could
only be associated with some vaporous effluvium of cyanogen, or of
hydrocyanic ('prussic') acid, or of both; and when I at last managed to
examine some of the dust under the microscope, I was not therefore
surprised to find, among the general mass of purplish ash, a number of
bright-yellow particles, which could only be minute crystals of potassic
ferrocyanide. What potassic ferrocyanide was doing on board the _Boreal_
I did not know, and I had neither the means, nor the force of mind,
alas! to dive then further into the mystery; I understood only that by
some extraordinary means the air of the region just south of the Polar
environ had been impregnated with a vapour which was either cyanogen, or
some product of cyanogen; also, that this deadly vapour, which is very
soluble, had by now either been dissolved by the sea, or else dispersed
into space (probably the latter), leaving only its faint after-perfume;
and seeing this, I let my poor abandoned head drop again on the table,
and long hours I sat there staring mad, for I had a suspicion, my God,
and a fear, in my breast.

       *       *       *       *       *

The _Boreal,_ I found, contained sufficient provisions, untouched by
the dust, in cases, casks, &c., to last me, probably, fifty years. After
two days, when I had partially scrubbed and boiled the filth of fifteen
months from my skin, and solaced myself with better food, I overhauled
her thoroughly, and spent three more days in oiling and cleaning the
engine. Then, all being ready, I dragged my twelve dead and laid them
together in two rows on the chart-room floor; and I hoisted for love the
poor little kayak which had served me through so many tribulations. At
nine in the morning of the 6th July, a week from my first sighting of
the _Boreal_, I descended to the engine-room to set out.

The screws, like those of most quite modern ships, were driven by the
simple contrivance of a constant stream of liquid air, contained in very
powerful tanks, exploding through capillary tubes into non-expansion
slide-valve chests, much as in the ordinary way with steam: a motor
which gave her, in spite of her bluff hulk, a speed of sixteen knots. It
is, therefore, the simplest thing for one man to take these ships round
the world, since their movement, or stopping, depend upon nothing but
the depressing or raising of a steel handle, provided that one does not
get blown to the sky meantime, as liquid air, in spite of its thousand
advantages, occasionally blows people. At any rate, I had tanks of air
sufficient to last me through twelve years' voyaging; and there was the
ordinary machine on board for making it, with forty tons of coal, in
case of need, in the bunkers, and two excellent Belleville boilers: so I
was well supplied with motors at least.

The ice here was quite slack, and I do not think I ever saw Arctic
weather so bright and gay, the temperature at 41°. I found that I was
midway between Franz Josef and Spitzbergen, in latitude 79° 23' N. and
longitude 39° E.; my way was perfectly clear; and something almost like
a mournful hopefulness was in me as the engines slid into their clanking
turmoil, and those long-silent screws began to churn the Arctic sea. I
ran up with alacrity and took my stand at the wheel; and the bows of my
eventful Argo turned southward and westward.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I needed food or sleep, the ship slept, too: when I awoke, she
continued her way.

Sixteen hours a day sometimes I stood sentinel at that wheel,
overlooking the varied monotony of the ice-sea, till my knees would
give, and I wondered why a wheel at which one might sit was not
contrived, rather delicate steering being often required among the floes
and bergs. By now, however, I was less weighted with my ball of Polar
clothes, and stood almost slim in a Lap great-coat, a round Siberian fur
cap on my head.

At midnight when I threw myself into my old berth, it was just as though
the engines, subsided now into silence, were a dead thing, and had a
ghost which haunted me; for I heard them still, and yet not them, but
the silence of their ghost.

Sometimes I would startle from sleep, horrified to the heart at some
sound of exploding iceberg, or bumping floe, noising far through that
white mystery of quietude, where the floes and bergs were as floating
tombs, and the world a liquid cemetery. Never could I describe the
strange Doom's-day shock with which such a sound would recall me from
far depths of chaos to recollection of myself: for often-times, both
waking and in nightmare, I did not know on which planet I was, nor in
which Age, but felt myself adrift in the great gulf of time and space
and circumstance, without bottom for my consciousness to stand upon; and
the world was all mirage and a new show to me; and the boundaries of
dream and waking lost.

Well, the weather was most fair all the time, and the sea like a pond.
During the morning of the fifth day, the 11th July, I entered, and went
moving down, an extraordinary long avenue of snow-bergs and floes, most
regularly placed, half a mile across and miles long, like a Titanic
double-procession of statues, or the Ming Tombs, but rising and sinking
on the cadenced swell; many towering high, throwing placid shadows on
the aisle between; some being of a lucid emerald tint; and three or four
pouring down cascades that gave a far and chaunting sound. The sea
between was of a strange thick bluishness, almost like raw egg-white;
while, as always here, some snow-clouds, white and woolly, floated in
the pale sky. Down this avenue, which produced a mysterious impression
of Cyclopean cathedrals and odd sequesteredness, I had not passed a
mile, when I sighted a black object at the end.

I rushed to the shrouds, and very soon made out a whaler.

Again the same panting agitations, mad rage to be at her, at once
possessed me; I flew to the indicator, turned the lever to full, then
back to give the wheel a spin, then up the main-mast ratlins, waving a
long foot-bandage of vadmel tweed picked up at random, and by the time I
was within five hundred yards of her, had worked myself to such a pitch,
that I was again shouting that futile madness: 'Hullo! Hi! Bravo! _I
have been to the Pole!_'

And those twelve dead that I had in the chart-room there must have heard
me, and the men on the whaler must have heard me, and smiled their
smile.

For, as to that whaler, I should have known better at once, if I had not
been crazy, since she _looked_ like a ship of death, her boom slamming
to port and starboard on the gentle heave of the sea, and her fore-sail
reefed that serene morning. Only when I was quite near her, and hurrying
down to stop the engines, did the real truth, with perfect suddenness,
drench my heated brain; and I almost ran into her, I was so stunned.

However, I stopped the _Boreal_ in time, and later on lowered the kayak,
and boarded the other.

This ship had evidently been stricken silent in the midst of a perfect
drama of activity, for I saw not one of her crew of sixty-two who was
not busy, except one boy. I found her a good-sized thing of 500 odd
tons, ship-rigged, with auxiliary engine of seventy horse-power, and
pretty heavily armour-plated round the bows. There was no part of her
which I did not over-haul, and I could see that they had had a great
time with whales, for a mighty carcass, attached to the outside of the
ship by the powerful cant-purchase tackle, had been in process of
flensing and cutting-in, and on the deck two great blankets of blubber,
looking each a ton-weight, surrounded by twenty-seven men in many
attitudes, some terrifying to see, some disgusting, several grotesque,
all so unhuman, the whale dead, and the men dead, too, and death was
there, and the rank-flourishing germs of Inanity, and a mesmerism, and a
silence, whose dominion was established, and its reign was growing old.
Four of them, who had been removing the gums from a mass of stratified
whalebone at the mizzen-mast foot, were quite imbedded in whale-flesh;
also, in a barrel lashed to the top of the main top-gallant masthead was
visible the head of a man with a long pointed beard, looking steadily
out over the sea to the S.W., which made me notice that five only of the
probable eight or nine boats were on board; and after visiting the
'tween-decks, where I saw considerable quantities of stowed whalebone
plates, and about fifty or sixty iron oil-tanks, and cut-up blubber; and
after visiting cabin, engine-room, fo'cas'le, where I saw a lonely boy
of fourteen with his hand grasping a bottle of rum under all the
turned-up clothes in a chest, he, at the moment of death, being
evidently intent upon hiding it; and after two hours' search of the
ship, I got back to my own, and half an hour later came upon all the
three missing whale-boats about a mile apart, and steered zig-zag near
to each. They contained five men each and a steerer, and one had the
harpoon-gun fired, with the loose line coiled round and round the head
and upper part of the stroke line-manager; and in the others hundreds of
fathoms of coiled rope, with toggle-irons, whale-lances, hand-harpoons,
and dropped heads, and grins, and lazy _abandon_, and eyes that stared,
and eyes that dozed, and eyes that winked.

After this I began to sight ships not infrequently, and used regularly
to have the three lights burning all night. On the 12th July I met one,
on the 15th two, on the 16th one, on the 17th three, on the 18th
two--all Greenlanders, I think: but, of the nine, I boarded only three,
the glass quite clearly showing me, when yet far off, that on the others
was no life; and on the three which I boarded were dead men; so that
that suspicion which I had, and that fear, grew very heavy upon me.

I went on southward, day after day southward, sentinel there at my
wheel; clear sunshine by day, when the calm pale sea sometimes seemed
mixed with regions of milk, and at night the immense desolation of a
world lit by a sun that was long dead, and by a light that was gloom. It
was like Night blanched in death then; and wan as the very kingdom of
death and Hades I have seen it, most terrifying, that neuter state and
limbo of nothingness, when unreal sea and spectral sky, all boundaries
lost, mingled in a vast shadowy void of ghastly phantasmagoria, pale to
utter huelessness, at whose centre I, as if annihilated, seemed to swoon
in immensity of space. Into this disembodied world would come anon
waftures of that peachy scent which I knew: and their frequency rapidly
grew. But still the _Boreal_ moved, traversing, as it were, bottomless
Eternity: and I reached latitude 72°, not far now from Northern Europe.

And now, as to that blossomy peach-scent--even while some floes were yet
around me--I was just like some fantastic mariner, who, having set out
to search for Eden and the Blessed Islands, finds them, and balmy gales
from their gardens come out, while he is yet afar, to meet him with
their perfumes of almond and champac, cornel and jasmin and lotus. For I
had now reached a zone where the peach-aroma was constant; all the world
seemed embalmed in its spicy fragrance; and I could easily imagine
myself voyaging beyond the world toward some clime of perpetual and
enchanting Spring.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, I saw at last what whalers used to call 'the blink of the ice';
that is to say, its bright apparition or reflection in the sky when it
is left behind, or not yet come-to. By this time I was in a region where
a good many craft of various sorts were to be seen; I was continually
meeting them; and not one did I omit to investigate, while many I
boarded in the kayak or the larch-wood pram. Just below latitude 70° I
came upon a good large fleet of what I supposed to be Lafoden cod and
herring fishers, which must have drifted somewhat on a northward
current. They had had a great season, for the boats were well laden with
curing fish. I went from one to the other on a zig-zag course, they
being widely scattered, some mere dots to the glass on the horizon. The
evening was still and clear with that astral Arctic clearness, the sun
just beginning his low-couched nightly drowse. These sturdy-looking
brown boats stood rocking gently there with slow-creaking noises, as of
things whining in slumber, without the least damage, awaiting the
appalling storms of the winter months on that tenebrous sea, when a
dark doom, and a deep grave, would not fail them. The fishers were braw
carles, wearing, many of them, fringes of beard well back from the
chin-point, with hanging woollen caps. In every case I found below-decks
a number of cruses of corn-brandy, marked _aquavit_, two of which I took
into the pram. In one of the smacks an elderly fisher was kneeling in a
forward sprawling pose, clasping the lug-mast with his arms, the two
knees wide apart, head thrown back, and the yellow eye-balls with their
islands of grey iris staring straight up the mast-pole. At another of
them, instead of boarding in the pram, I shut off the _Boreal's_ liquid
air at such a point that, by delicate steering, she slackened down to a
stoppage just a-beam of the smack, upon whose deck I was thus able to
jump down. After looking around I descended the three steps aft into the
dark and garrety below-decks, and with stooping back went calling in an
awful whisper: '_Anyone? Anyone?_' Nothing answered me: and when I went
up again, the _Boreal_ had drifted three yards beyond my reach. There
being a dead calm, I had to plunge into the water, and in that
half-minute there a sudden cold throng of unaccountable terrors beset
me, and I can feel again now that abysmal desolation of loneliness, and
sense of a hostile and malign universe bent upon eating me up: for the
ocean seemed to me nothing but a great ghost.

Two mornings later I came upon another school, rather larger boats
these, which I found to be Brittany cod-fishers. Most of these, too, I
boarded. In every below-decks was a wooden or earthenware image of the
Virgin, painted in gaudy faded colours; and in one case I found a boy
who had been kneeling before the statue, but was toppled sideways now,
his knees still bent, and the cross of Christ in his hand. These
stalwart blue woollen blouses and tarpaulin sou'-westers lay in every
pose of death, every detail of feature and expression still perfectly
preserved. The sloops were all the same, all, all: with sing-song creaks
they rocked a little, nonchalantly: each, as it were, with a certain
sub-consciousness of its own personality, and callous unconsciousness of
all the others round it: yet each a copy of the others: the same hooks
and lines, disembowelling-knives, barrels of salt and pickle, piles and
casks of opened cod, kegs of biscuit, and low-creaking rockings, and a
bilgy smell, and dead men. The next day, about eighty miles south of the
latitude of Mount Hekla, I sighted a big ship, which turned out to be
the French cruiser _Lazare Tréport_. I boarded and overhauled her
during three hours, her upper, main, and armoured deck, deck by deck, to
her lowest black depths, even childishly spying up the tubes of her two
big, rusted turret-guns. Three men in the engine-room had been much
mangled, after death, I presume, by a burst boiler; floating about 800
yards to the north-east lay a long-boat of hers, low in the water,
crammed with marines, one oar still there, jammed between the row-lock
and the rower's forced-back chin; on the ship's starboard deck, in the
long stretch of space between the two masts, the blue-jackets had
evidently been piped up, for they lay there in a sort of serried
disorder, to the number of two hundred and seventy-five. Nothing could
be of suggestion more tragic than the wasted and helpless power of this
poor wandering vessel, around whose stolid mass myriads of wavelets,
busy as aspen-leaves, bickered with a continual weltering splash that
was quite loud to hear. I sat a good time that afternoon in one of her
steely port main-deck casemates on a gun-carriage, my head sunken on my
breast, furtively eyeing the bluish turned-up feet, all shrunk,
exsanguined, of a sailor who lay on his back before me; his soles were
all that I could see, the rest of him lying head-downwards beyond the
steel door-sill.

Drenched in seas of lugubrious reverie I sat, till, with a shuddering
start, I awoke, paddled back to the _Boreal_, and, till sleep conquered
me, went on my way. At ten the next morning, coming on deck, I spied to
the west a group of craft, and turned my course upon them. They turned
out to be eight Shetland sixerns, which must have drifted north-eastward
hither. I examined them well, but they were as the long list of the
others: for all the men, and all the boys, and all the dogs on them were
dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

I could have come to land a long time before I did: but I would not: I
was so afraid. For I was used to the silence of the ice: and I was used
to the silence of the sea: but, God knows it, I was afraid of the
silence of the land.

       *       *       *       *       *

Once, on the 15th July, I had seen a whale, or thought I did, spouting
very remotely afar on the S.E. horizon; and on the 19th I distinctly saw
a shoal of porpoises vaulting the sea-surface, in their swift-successive
manner, northward: and seeing them, I had said pitifully to myself:
'Well, I am not quite alone in the world, then, my good God--not quite
alone.'

Moreover, some days later, the _Boreal_ had found herself in a bank of
cod making away northward, millions of fish, for I saw them, and one
afternoon caught three, hand-running, with the hook.

So the sea, at least, had its tribes to be my mates.

But if I should find the land as still as the sea, without even the
spouting whale, or school of tumbling sea-hogs--_if Paris were dumber
than the eternal ice_--what then, I asked myself, should I do?

       *       *       *       *       *

I could have made short work, and landed at Shetland, for I found myself
as far westward as longitude 11° 23' W.: but I would not: I was so
afraid. The shrinking within me to face that vague suspicion which I
had, turned me first to a foreign land.

I made for Norway, and on the first night of this definite intention, at
about nine o'clock, the weather being gusty, the sky lowering, the air
sombrous, and the sea hard-looking, dark, and ridged, I was steaming
along at a good rate, holding the wheel, my poor port and starboard
lights still burning there, when, without the least notice, I received
the roughest physical shock of my life, being shot bodily right over
the wheel, thence, as from a cannon, twenty feet to the cabin-door,
through it head-foremost down the companion-way, and still beyond some
six yards along the passage. I had crashed into some dark and dead ship,
probably of large size, though I never saw her, nor any sign of her; and
all that night, and the next day till four in the afternoon, the
_Boreal_ went driving alone over the sea, whither she would: for I lay
unconscious. When I woke, I found that I had received really very small
injuries, considering: but I sat there on the floor a long time in a
sulky, morose, disgusted, and bitter mood; and when I rose, pettishly
stopped the ship's engines, seeing my twelve dead all huddled and
disfigured. Now I was afraid to steam by night, and even in the daytime
I would not go on for three days: for I was childishly angry with I know
not what, and inclined to quarrel with Those whom I could not see.

However, on the fourth day, a rough swell which knocked the ship about,
and made me very uncomfortable, coaxed me into moving; and I did so with
bows turned eastward and southward.

I sighted the Norway coast four days later, in latitude 63° 19', at noon
of the 11th August, and pricked off my course to follow it; but it was
with a slow and dawdling reluctance that I went, at much less than
half-speed. In some eight hours, as I knew from the chart, I ought to
sight the lighthouse light on Smoelen Island; and when quiet night came,
the black water being branded with trails of still moonlight, I passed
quite close to it, between ten and twelve, almost under the shadow of
the mighty hills: but, oh my God, no light was there. And all the way
down I marked the rugged sea-board slumber darkling, afar or near, with
never, alas! one friendly light.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, on the 15th August I had another of those maniac raptures, whose
passing away would have left an elephant racked and prostrate. During
four days I had seen not one sign of present life on the Norway coast,
only hills, hills, dead and dark, and floating craft, all dead and dark;
and my eyes now, I found, had acquired a crazy fixity of stare into the
very bottom of the vacant abyss of nothingness, while I remained
unconscious of being, save of one point, rainbow-blue, far down in the
infinite, which passed slowly from left to right before my consciousness
a little way, then vanished, came back, and passed slowly again, from
left to right continually; till some prick, or voice, in my brain would
startle me into the consciousness that I was staring, whispering the
profound confidential warning: _You must not stare so, or it is over
with you!_' Well, lost in a blank trance of this sort, I was leaning
over the wheel during the afternoon of the 15th, when it was as if some
instinct or premonition in my soul leapt up, and said aloud: 'If you
look just yonder, _you will see...!_' I started, and in one instant had
surged up from all that depth of reverie to reality: I glanced to the
right: and there, at last, my God, I saw something human which moved,
rapidly moved: at last!--and it came to me.

That sense of recovery, of waking, of new solidity, of the comfortable
usual, a million-fold too intense for words--how sweetly consoling it
was! Again now, as I write, I can fancy and feel it--the rocky solidity,
the adamant ordinary, on which to base the feet, and live. From the day
when I stood at the Pole, and saw there the dizzy thing that made me
swoon, there had come into my way not one sign or trace that other
beings like myself were alive on the earth with me: till now, suddenly,
I had the sweet indubitable proof: for on the south-western sea, not
four knots away, I saw a large, swift ship: and her bows, which were
sharp as a hatchet, were steadily chipping through the smooth sea at a
pretty high pace, throwing out profuse ribbony foams that went
wide-vawering, with outward undulations, far behind her length, as she
ran the sea in haste, straight northward.

At the moment, I was steering about S.E. by S., fifteen miles out from a
shadowy-blue series of Norway mountains; and just giving the wheel one
frantic spin to starboard to bring me down upon her, I flew to the
bridge, leant my back on the main-mast, which passed through it, put a
foot on the white iron rail before me, and there at once felt all the
mocking devils of distracted revelry possess me, as I caught the cap
from my long hairs, and commenced to wave and wave and wave, red-faced
maniac that I was: for at the second nearer glance, I saw that she was
flying an ensign at the main, and a long pennant at the main-top, and I
did not know what she was flying those flags there for: and I was
embittered and driven mad.

With distinct minuteness did she print herself upon my consciousness in
that five minutes' interval: she was painted a dull and cholera yellow,
like many Russian ships, and there was a faded pink space at her bows
under the line where the yellow ceased: the ensign at her main I made
out to be the blue-and-white saltire, and she was clearly a Russian
passenger-liner, two-masted, two-funnelled, though from her funnels came
no trace of smoke, and the position of her steam-cones was anywhere. All
about her course the sea was spotted with wobbling splendours of the low
sun, large coarse blots of glory near the eye, but lessening to a
smaller pattern in the distance, and at the horizon refined to a
homogeneous band of livid silver.

The double speed of the _Boreal_ and the other, hastening opposite ways,
must have been thirty-eight or forty knots, and the meeting was
accomplished in certainly less than five minutes: yet into that time I
crowded years of life. I was shouting passionately at her, my eyes
starting from my head, my face all inflamed with rage the most prone,
loud and urgent. For she did not stop, nor signal, nor make sign of
seeing me, but came furrowing down upon me like Juggernaut, with
steadfast run. I lost reason, thought, memory, purpose, sense of
relation, in that access of delirium which transported me, and can only
remember now that in the midst of my shouting, a word, uttered by the
fiends who used my throat to express their frenzy, set me laughing high
and madly: for I was crying: 'Hi! Bravo! Why don't you stop? _Madmen! I
have been to the Pole!'_

That instant an odour arose, and came, and struck upon my brain, most
detestable, most execrable; and while one might count ten, I was aware
of her near-sounding engines, and that cursed charnel went tearing past
me on her maenad way, not fifteen yards from my eyes and nostrils. She
was a thing, my God, from which the vulture and the jackal, prowling for
offal, would fly with shrieks of loathing. I had a glimpse of decks
piled thick with her festered dead.

In big black letters on the round retreating yellow stern my eye-corner
caught the word _Yaroslav_, as I bent over the rail to retch and cough
and vomit at her. She was a horrid thing.

This ship had certainly been pretty far south in tropical or
sub-tropical latitudes with her great crowd of dead: for all the bodies
which I had seen till then, so far from smelling ill, seemed to give out
a certain perfume of the peach. She was evidently one of those many
ships of late years which have substituted liquid air for steam, yet
retained their old steam-funnels, &c., in case of emergency: for air, I
believe, was still looked at askance by several builders, on account of
the terrible accidents which it sometimes caused. The _Boreal_ herself
is a similar instance of both motors. This vessel, the _Yaroslav_, must
have been left with working engines when her crew were overtaken by
death, and, her air-tanks being still unexhausted, must have been
ranging the ocean with impunity ever since, during I knew not how many
months, or, it might be, years.

Well, I coasted Norway for nearly a hundred and sixty miles without once
going nearer land than two or three miles: for something held me back.
But passing the fjord-mouth where I knew that Aadheim was, I suddenly
turned the helm to port, almost before I knew that I was doing it, and
made for land.

In half an hour I was moving up an opening in the land with mountains on
either hand, streaky crags at their summit, umbrageous boscage below;
and the whole softened, as it were, by veils woven of the rainbow.

This arm of water lies curved about like a thread which one drops, only
the curves are much more pointed, so that every few minutes the scene
was changed, though the vessel just crawled her way up, and I could see
behind me nothing of what was passed, or only a land-locked gleam like a
lake.

I never saw water so polished and glassy, like clarid polished marble,
reflecting everything quite clean-cut in its lucid abysm, over which
hardly the faintest zephyr breathed that still sun-down; it wimpled
about the bluff _Boreal_, which seemed to move as if careful not to
bruise it, in rich wrinkles and creases, like glycerine, or
dewy-trickling lotus-oil; yet it was only the sea: and the spectacle
yonder was only crags, and autumn-foliage and mountain-slope: yet all
seemed caught-up and chaste, rapt in a trance of rose and purple, and
made of the stuff of dreams and bubbles, of pollen-of-flowers, and rinds
of the peach.

I saw it not only with delight, but with complete astonishment: having
forgotten, as was too natural in all that long barrenness of ice and
sea, that anything could be so ethereally fair: yet homely, too, human,
familiar, and consoling. The air here was richly spiced with that peachy
scent, and there was a Sabbath and a nepenthe and a charm in that place
at that hour, as it were of those gardens of Hesperus, and fields of
asphodel, reserved for the spirits of the just.

Alas! but I had the glass at my side, and for me nepenthe was mixed with
a despair immense as the vault of heaven, my good God: for anon I would
take it up to spy some perched hut of the peasant, or burg of the
'bonder,' on the peaks: and I saw no one there; and to the left, at the
third marked bend of the fjord, where there is one of those watch-towers
that these people used for watching in-coming fish, I spied, lying on a
craggy slope just before the tower, a body which looked as if it must
surely tumble head-long, but did not. And when I saw that, I felt
definitely, for the first time, that shoreless despair which I alone of
men have felt, high beyond the stars, and deep as hell; and I fell to
staring again that blank stare of Nirvana and the lunacy of Nothingness,
wherein Time merges in Eternity, and all being, like one drop of water,
flies scattered to fill the bottomless void of space, and is lost.

The _Boreal's_ bow walking over a little empty fishing-boat roused me,
and a minute later, just before I came to a new promontory and bend, I
saw two people. The shore there is some three feet above the water, and
edged with boulders of rock, about which grows a fringe of shrubs and
small trees: behind this fringe is a path, curving upward through a
sombre wooded little gorge; and on the path, near the water, I saw a
driver of one of those Norwegian sulkies that were called karjolers: he,
on the high front seat, was dead, lying sideways and backwards, with low
head resting on the wheel; and on a trunk strapped to a frame on the
axle behind was a boy, his head, too, resting sideways on the wheel,
near the other's; and the little pony was dead, pitched forward on its
head and fore-knees, tilting the shafts downward; and some distance from
them on the water floated an empty skiff.

       *       *       *       *       *

When I turned the next fore-land, I all at once began to see a number of
craft, which increased as I advanced, most of them small boats, with
some schooners, sloops, and larger craft, the majority a-ground: and
suddenly now I was conscious that, mingling with that delicious odour of
spring-blossoms--profoundly modifying, yet not destroying it--was
another odour, wafted to me on the wings of the very faint land-breeze:
and 'Man,' I said, 'is decomposing': for I knew it well: it was the
odour of human corruption.

       *       *       *       *       *

The fjord opened finally in a somewhat wider basin, shut-in by quite
steep, high-towering mountains, which reflected themselves in the water
to their last cloudy crag: and, at the end of this I saw ships, a quay,
and a modest, homely old town.

Not a sound, not one: only the languidly-working engines of the
_Boreal_. Here, it was clear, the Angel of Silence had passed, and his
scythe mown.

I ran and stopped the engines, and, without anchoring, got down into an
empty boat that lay at the ship's side when she stopped; and I paddled
twenty yards toward the little quay. There was a brigantine with all her
courses set, three jibs, stay-sails, square-sails, main and fore-sails,
and gaff-top-sail, looking hanging and listless in that calm place, and
wedded to a still copy of herself, mast-downward, in the water; there
were three lumber-schooners, a forty-ton steam-boat, a tiny barque, five
Norway herring-fishers, and ten or twelve shallops: and the
sailing-craft had all fore-and-aft sails set, and about each, as I
passed among them, brooded an odour that was both sweet and abhorrent,
an odour more suggestive of the very genius of mortality--the inner mind
and meaning of Azrael--than aught that I could have conceived: for all,
as I soon saw, were crowded with dead.

Well, I went up the old mossed steps, in that strange dazed state in
which one notices frivolous things: I remember, for instance, feeling
the lightness of my new clothes: for the weather was quite mild, and the
day before I had changed to Summer things, having on now only a common
undyed woollen shirt, the sleeves rolled up, and cord trousers, with a
belt, and a cloth cap over my long hair, and an old pair of yellow
shoes, without laces, and without socks. And I stood on the unhewn
stones of the edge of the quay, and looked abroad over a largish piece
of unpaved ground, which lay between the first house-row and the quay.

What I saw was not only most woeful, but wildly startling: woeful,
because a great crowd of people had assembled, and lay dead, there; and
wildly startling, because something in their _tout ensemble_ told me in
one minute why they were there in such number.

They were there in the hope, and with the thought, to fly westward by
boat.

And the something which told me this was a certain _foreign_ air about
that field of the dead as the eye rested on it, something un-northern,
southern, and Oriental.

Two yards from my feet, as I stepped to the top, lay a group of three:
one a Norway peasant-girl in skirt of olive-green, scarlet stomacher,
embroidered bodice, Scotch bonnet trimmed with silver lace, and big
silver shoe-buckles; the second was an old Norway man in knee-breeches,
and eighteenth-century small-clothes, and red worsted cap; and the third
was, I decided, an old Jew of the Polish Pale, in gaberdine and
skull-cap, with ear-locks.

I went nearer to where they lay thick as reaped stubble between the
quay and a little stone fountain in the middle of the space, and I saw
among those northern dead two dark-skinned women in costly dress, either
Spanish or Italian, and the yellower mortality of a Mongolian, probably
a Magyar, and a big negro in zouave dress, and some twenty-five obvious
French, and two Morocco fezes, and the green turban of a shereef, and
the white of an Ulema.

And I asked myself this question: 'How came these foreign stragglers
here in this obscure northern town?'

And my wild heart answered: 'There has been an impassioned stampede,
northward and westward, of all the tribes of Man. And this that I, Adam
Jeffson, here see is but the far-tossed spray of that monstrous,
infuriate flood.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, I passed up a street before me, careful, careful where I trod. It
was not utterly silent, nor was the quay-square, but haunted by a pretty
dense cloud of mosquitoes, and dreamy twinges of music, like the drawing
of the violin-bow in elf-land. The street was narrow, pavered, steep,
and dark; and the sensations with which I, poor bent man, passed
through that dead town, only Atlas, fabled to bear the burden of this
Earth, could divine.

       *       *       *       *       *

I thought to myself: If now a wave from the Deep has washed over this
planetary ship of earth, and I, who alone happened to be in the extreme
bows, am the sole survivor of that crew?... What then, my God, shall I
do?

       *       *       *       *       *

I felt, I felt, that in this townlet, save the water-gnats of Norway,
was no living thing; that the hum and the savour of Eternity filled, and
wrapped, and embalmed it.

The houses are mostly of wood, some of them fairly large, with a
_porte-cochère_ leading into a semi-circular yard, around which the
building stands, very steep-roofed, and shingled, in view of the heavy
snow-masses of winter. Glancing into one open casement near the ground,
I saw an aged woman, stout and capped, lie on her face before a very
large porcelain stove; but I paced on without stoppage, traversed
several streets, and came out, as it became dark, upon a piece of
grass-land leading downward to a mountain-gorge. It was some distance
along this gorge that I found myself sitting the next morning: and how,
and in what trance, I passed that whole blank night is obliterated from
my consciousness. When I looked about with the return of light I saw
majestic fir-grown mountains on either hand, almost meeting overhead at
some points, deeply shading the mossy gorge. I rose, and careless of
direction, went still onward, and walked and walked for hours,
unconscious of hunger; there was a profusion of wild
mountain-strawberries, very tiny, which must grow almost into winter, a
few of which I ate; there were blue gentianellas, and
lilies-of-the-valley, and luxuriance of verdure, and a noise of waters.
Occasionally, I saw little cataracts on high, fluttering like white wild
rags, for they broke in the mid-fall, and were caught away, and
scattered; patches also of reaped hay and barley, hung up, in a singular
way, on stakes six feet high, I suppose to dry; there were perched huts,
and a seemingly inaccessible small castle or burg, but none of these did
I enter: and five bodies only I saw in the gorge, a woman with a babe,
and a man with two small oxen.

About three in the afternoon I was startled to find myself there, and
turned back. It was dark when I again passed through those gloomy
streets of Aadheim, making for the quay, and now I felt both my hunger
and a dropping weariness. I had no thought of entering any house, but
as I passed by one open _porte-cochère_, something, I know not what,
made me turn sharply in, for my mind had become as fluff on the winds,
not working of its own action, but the sport of impulses that seemed
external. I went across the yard, and ascended a wooden spiral stair by
a twilight which just enabled me to pick my way among five or six vague
forms fallen there. In that confined place fantastic qualms beset me; I
mounted to the first landing, and tried the door, but it was locked; I
mounted to the second: the door was open, and with a chill reluctance I
took a step inward where all was pitch darkness, the window-stores being
drawn. I hesitated: it was very dark. I tried to utter that word of
mine, but it came in a whisper inaudible to my ears: I tried again, and
this time heard myself say: '_anyone_?' At the same time I had made
another step forward, and trodden upon a soft abdomen; and at that
contact terrors the most cold and ghastly thrilled me through and
through, for it was as though I saw in that darkness the sudden eyeballs
of Hell and frenzy glare upon me, and with a low gurgle of affright I
was gone, helter-skelter down the stairs, treading upon flesh, across
the yard, and down the street, with pelting feet, and open arms, and
sobbing bosom, for I thought that all Aadheim was after me; nor was my
horrid haste appeased till I was on board the _Boreal_, and moving down
the fjord.

Out to sea, then, I went again; and within the next few days I visited
Bergen, and put in at Stavanger. And I saw that Bergen and Stavanger
were dead.

It was then, on the 19th August, that I turned my bow toward my native
land.

      *       *       *       *       *

From Stavanger I steered a straight course for the Humber.

I had no sooner left behind me the Norway coast than I began to meet the
ships, the ships--ship after ship; and by the time I entered the zone
of the ordinary alternation of sunny day and sunless night, I was moving
through the midst of an incredible number of craft, a mighty and
wide-spread fleet.

Over all that great expanse of the North Sea, where, in its most
populous days of trade, the sailor might perhaps sight a sail or two, I
had now at every moment at least ten or twelve within scope of the
glass, oftentimes as many as forty, forty-five.

And very still they lay on a still sea, itself a dead thing, livid as
the lips of death; and there was an intensity in the calm that was
appalling: for the ocean seemed weighted, and the air drugged.

Extremely slow was my advance, for at first I would not leave any ship,
however remotely small, without approaching sufficiently to investigate
her, at least with the spy-glass: and a strange multitudinous mixture of
species they were, trawlers in hosts, war-ships of every nation, used,
it seemed, as passenger-boats, smacks, feluccas, liners, steam-barges,
great four-masters with sails, Channel boats, luggers, a Venetian
_burchiello_, colliers, yachts, _remorqueurs_, training ships, dredgers,
two _dahabeeahs_ with curving gaffs, Marseilles fishers, a Maltese
_speronare_, American off-shore sail, Mississippi steam-boats, Sorrento
lug-schooners, Rhine punts, yawls, old frigates and three-deckers,
called to novel use, Stromboli caiques, Yarmouth tubs, xebecs, Rotterdam
flat-bottoms, floats, mere gunwaled rafts--anything from anywhere that
could bear a human freight on water had come, and was here: and all, I
knew, had been making westward, or northward, or both; and all, I knew,
were crowded; and all were tombs, listlessly wandering, my God, on the
wandering sea with their dead.

And so fair was the world about them, too: the brightest suavest autumn
weather; all the still air aromatic with that vernal perfume of peach:
yet not so utterly still, but if I passed close to the lee of any
floating thing, the spicy stirrings of morning or evening wafted me
faint puffs of the odour of mortality over-ripe for the grave.

So abominable and accursed did this become to me, such a plague and a
hissing, vague as was the offence, that I began to shun rather than seek
the ships, and also I now dropped my twelve, whom I had kept to be my
companions all the way from the Far North, one by one, into the sea: for
now I had definitely passed into a zone of settled warmth.

I was convinced, however, that the poison, whatever it might be, had
some embalming, or antiseptic, effect upon the bodies: at Aadheim,
Bergen and Stavanger, for instance, where the temperature permitted me
to go without a jacket, only the merest hints and whiffs of the
processes of dissolution had troubled me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Very benign, I say, and pleasant to see, was sky and sea during all that
voyage: but it was at sun-set that my sense of the wondrously beautiful
was roused and excited, in spite of that great burden which I carried.
Certainly, I never saw sun-sets resembling those, nor could have
conceived of aught so flamboyant, extravagant, and bewitched: for the
whole heaven seemed turned into an arena for warring Hierarchies,
warring for the universe, or it was like the wild countenance of God
defeated, and flying marred and bloody from His enemies. But many
evenings I watched with unintelligent awe, believing it but a portent of
the un-sheathed sword of the Almighty; till, one morning, a thought
pricked me like a sword, for I suddenly remembered the great sun-sets of
the later nineteenth century, witnessed in Europe, America, and, I
believe, over the world, after the eruption of the volcano of Krakatoa.

And whereas I had before said to myself: 'If now a wave from the Deep
has washed over this planetary ship of earth...,' I said now: 'A
wave--but not from the Deep: a wave rather which she had reserved, and
has spouted, from her own un-motherly entrails...'

       *       *       *       *       *

I had some knowledge of Morse telegraphy, and of the manipulation of
tape-machines, telegraphic typing-machines, and the ordinary wireless
transmitter and coherer, as of most little things of that sort which
came within the outskirts of the interest of a man of science; I had
collaborated with Professor Stanistreet in the production of a text-book
called 'Applications of Science to the Arts,' which had brought us some
notoriety; and, on the whole, the _minutiae_ of modern things were
still pretty fresh in my memory. I could therefore have wired from
Bergen or Stavanger, supposing the batteries not run down, to somewhere:
but I would not: I was so afraid; afraid lest for ever from nowhere
should come one answering click, or flash, or stirring....

       *       *       *       *       *

I could have made short work, and landed at Hull: but I would not: I was
so afraid. For I was used to the silence of the ice: and I was used to
the silence of the sea: but I was afraid of the silence of England.

       *       *       *       *       *

I came in sight of the coast on the morning of the 26th August,
somewhere about Hornsea, but did not see any town, for I put the helm to
port, and went on further south, no longer bothering with the
instruments, but coasting at hap-hazard, now in sight of land, and now
in the centre of a circle of sea; not admitting to myself the motive of
this loitering slowness, nor thinking at all, but ignoring the
deep-buried fear of the to-morrow which I shirked, and instinctively
hiding myself in to-day. I passed the Wash, I passed Yarmouth,
Felixstowe. By now the things that floated motionless on the sea were
beyond numbering, for I could hardly lower my eyes ten minutes and lift
them, without seeing yet another there: so that soon after dusk I, too,
had to lie still among them all, till morning: for they lay dark, and to
move at any pace would have been to drown the already dead.

Well, I came to the Thames-mouth, and lay pretty well in among the Flats
and Pan Sands towards eight one evening, not seven miles from Sheppey
and the North Kent coast: and I did not see any Nore Light, nor Girdler
Light: and all along the coast I had seen no light: but as to that I
said not one word to myself, not admitting it, nor letting my heart know
what my brain thought, nor my brain know what my heart surmised; but
with a daft and mock-mistrustful under-look I would regard the darkling
land, holding it a sentient thing that would be playing a prank upon a
poor man like me.

And the next morning, when I moved again, my furtive eye-corners were
very well aware of the Prince's Channel light-ship, and also the Tongue
ship, for there they were: but I would not look at them at all, nor go
near them: for I did not wish to have anything to do with whatever might
have happened beyond my own ken, and it was better to look straight
before, seeing nothing, and concerning one's-self with one's-self.

The next evening, after having gone out to sea again, I was in a little
to the E. by S. of the North Foreland: and I saw no light there, nor any
Sandhead light; but over the sea vast signs of wreckage, and the coasts
were strewn with old wrecked fleets. I turned about S.E., very slowly
moving--for anywhere hereabouts hundreds upon hundreds of craft lay dead
within a ten-mile circle of sea--and by two in the fore-day had wandered
up well in sight of the French cliffs: for I had said: 'I will go and
see the light-beam of the great revolving-drum on Calais pier that
nightly beams half-way over-sea to England.' And the moon shone clear in
the southern heaven that morning, like a great old dying queen whose
Court swarms distantly from around her, diffident, pale, and tremulous,
the paler the nearer; and I could see the mountain-shadows on her spotty
full-face, and her misty aureole, and her lights on the sea, as it were
kisses stolen in the kingdom of sleep; and all among the quiet ships
mysterious white trails and powderings of light, like palace-corridors
in some fairy-land forlorn, full of breathless wan whispers, scandals,
and runnings-to-and-fro, with leers, and agitated last embraces, and
flight of the princess, and death-bed of the king; and on the N.E.
horizon a bank of brown cloud that seemed to have no relation with the
world; and yonder, not far, the white coast-cliffs, not so low as at
Calais near, but arranged in masses separated by vales of sward, each
with its wreck: but no light of any revolving-drum I saw.

       *       *       *       *       *

I could not sleep that night: for all the operations of my mind and body
seemed in abeyance. Mechanically I turned the ship westward again; and
when the sun came up, there, hardly two miles from me, were the cliffs
of Dover; and on the crenulated summit of the Castle I spied the Union
Jack hang motionless.

I heard eight, nine o'clock strike in the cabin, and I was still at sea.
But some mad, audacious whisper was at my brain: and at 10.30, the 2nd
September, immediately opposite the Cross Wall Custom House, the
_Boreal's_ anchor-chain, after a voyage of three years, two months, and
fourteen days, ran thundering, thundering, through the starboard
hawse-hole.

Ah heaven! but I must have been stark mad to let the anchor go! for the
effect upon me of that shocking obstreperous hubbub, breaking in upon
all that cemetery repose that blessed morning, and lasting it seemed a
year, was most appalling; and at the sudden racket I stood excruciated,
with shivering knees and flinching heart, God knows: for not less
terrifically uproarious than the clatter of the last Trump it raged and
raged, and I thought that all the billion dead could not fail to start,
and rise, at alarum so excessive, and question me with their eyes....

       *       *       *       *       *

On the top of the Cross Wall near I saw a grey crab fearlessly crawl; at
the end where the street begins, I saw a single gas-light palely burn
that broad day, and at its foot a black man lay on his face, clad only
in a shirt and one boot; the harbour was almost packed with every sort
of craft, and on a Calais-Dover boat, eight yards from my stern, which
must have left Calais crowded to suffocation, I saw the rotted dead lie
heaped, she being unmoored, and continually grinding against an anchored
green brig.

And when I saw that, I dropped down upon my knees at the capstan, and my
poor heart sobbed out the frail cry: 'Well, Lord God, Thou hast
destroyed the work of Thy hand...'

       *       *       *       *       *

After a time I got up, went below in a state of somnambulism, took a
packet of pemmican cakes, leapt to land, and went following the railway
that runs from the Admiralty Pier. In an enclosed passage ten yards
long, with railway masonry on one side, I saw five dead lie, and could
not believe that I was in England, for all were dark-skinned people,
three gaudily dressed, and two in flowing white robes. It was the same
when I turned into a long street, leading northward, for here were a
hundred, or more, and never saw I, except in Constantinople, where I
once lived eighteen months, so variegated a mixture of races, black,
brunette, brown, yellow, white, in all the shades, some emaciated like
people dead from hunger, and, overlooking them all, one English boy with
a clean Eton collar sitting on a bicycle, supported by a lamp-post which
his arms clasped, he proving clearly the extraordinary suddenness of the
death which had overtaken them all.

I did not know whither, nor why, I went, nor had I the least idea
whether all this was visually seen by me in the world which I had known,
or in some other, or was all phantasy of my disembodied spirit--for I
had the thought that I, too, might be dead since old ages, and my spirit
wandering now through the universe of space, in which there is neither
north nor south, nor up nor down, nor measure nor relation, nor aught
whatever, save an uneasy consciousness of a dream about bottomlessness.
Of grief or pain, I think, I felt nothing; though I have a sort of
memory now that some sound, resembling a sob or groan, though it was
neither, came at regular clockwork intervals from my bosom during three
or four days. Meantime, my brain registered like a tape-machine details
the most frivolous, the most ludicrous--the name of a street, Strond
Street, Snargate Street; the round fur cap--black fur for the side,
white ermine for the top--of a portly Karaite priest on his back, whose
robes had been blown to his spread knees, as if lifted and neatly folded
there; a violin-bow gripped between the thick, irregular teeth of a
little Spaniard with brushed-back hair and mad-looking eyes; odd shoes
on the foot of a French girl, one black, one brown. They lay in the
street about as numerous as gunners who fall round their carriage, at
intervals of five to ten feet, the majority--as was the case also in
Norway, and on the ships--in poses of distraction, with spread arms, or
wildly distorted limbs, like men who, the instant before death, called
upon the rocks and hills to cover them.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the left I came to an opening in the land, called, I believe, 'The
Shaft,' and into this I turned, climbing a very great number of steps,
almost covered at one point with dead: the steps I began to count, but
left off, then the dead, and left off. Finally, at the top, which must
be even higher than the Castle, I came to a great open space laid out
with gravel-walks, and saw fortifications, barracks, a citadel. I did
not know the town, except by passings-through, and was surprised at the
breadth of view. Between me and the Castle to the east lay the district
of crowding houses, brick and ragstone, mixed in the distance with vague
azure haze; and to the right the harbour, the sea, with their ships; and
visible around me on the heights seven or eight dead, biting the dust;
the sun now high and warm, with hardly a cloud in the sky; and yonder a
mist, which was the coast of France.

It seemed too big for one poor man.

My head nodded. I sat on a bench, black-painted and hard, the seat and
back of horizontal boards, with intervals; and as I looked, I nodded,
heavy-headed and weary: for it was too big for me. And as I nodded, with
forehead propped on my left hand, and the packet of pemmican cakes in my
right, there was in my head, somehow, an old street-song of my
childhood: and I groaned it sleepily, like coronachs and drear funereal
nenias, dirging; and the packet beat time in my right hand, falling and
raising, falling heavily and rising, in time.

    I'll buy the ring,
    You'll rear the kids:
    Servants to wait on our ting, ting, ting.
    .   .   .   .   .
    .   .   .   .   .
    Ting, ting,
    Won't we be happy?
    Ting, ting,
    That shall be it:
    I'll buy the ring,
    You'll rear the kids:
    Servants to wait on our ting, ting, ting.
    .   .   .   .   .
    .   .   .   .   .

So maundering, I fell forward upon my face, and for twenty-three hours,
the living undistinguished from the dead, I slept there.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was awakened by drizzle, leapt up, looked at a silver chronometer
which, attached by a leather to my belt, I carried in my
breeches-pocket, and saw that it was 10 A.M. The sky was dark, and a
moaning wind--almost a new thing now to me--had arisen.

I ate some pemmican, for I had a reluctance--needless as it turned
out--to touch any of the thousand luxuries here, sufficient no doubt,
in a town like Dover alone, to last me five or six hundred years, if I
could live so long; and, having eaten, I descended The Shaft, and spent
the whole day, though it rained and blustered continually, in wandering
about. Reasoning, in my numb way, from the number of ships on the sea, I
expected to find the town over-crowded with dead: but this was not so;
and I should say, at a venture, that not a thousand English, nor fifteen
thousand foreigners, were in it: for that westward rage and stampede
must have operated here also, leaving the town empty but for the ever
new-coming hosts.

The first thing which I did was to go into an open grocer's shop, which
was also a post and telegraph office, with the notion, I suppose, to get
a message through to London. In the shop a single gas-light was burning
its last, and this, with that near the pier, were the only two that I
saw: and ghastly enough they looked, transparently wannish, and as it
were ashamed, like blinking night-things overtaken by the glare of day.
I conjectured that they had so burned and watched during months, or
years: for they were now blazing diminished, with streaks and rays in
the flame, as if by effort, and if these were the only two, they must
have needed time to all-but exhaust the works. Before the counter lay a
fashionably-dressed negro with a number of tied parcels scattered about
him, and on the counter an empty till, and behind it a tall thin woman
with her face resting sideways in the till, fingers clutching the outer
counter-rim, and such an expression of frantic terror as I never saw. I
got over the counter to a table behind a wire-gauze, and, like a numb
fool, went over the Morse alphabet in my mind before touching the
transmitting key, though I knew no code-words, and there, big enough to
be seen, was the ABC dial, and who was to answer my message I did not
ask myself: for habit was still strong upon me, and my mind refused to
reason from what I saw to what I did not see; but the moment I touched
the key, and peered greedily at the galvanometer-needle at my right, I
saw that it did not move, for no current was passing; and with a kind of
fright, I was up, leapt, and got away from the place, though there was a
great number of telegrams about the receiver which, if I had been in my
senses, I would have stopped and read.

Turning the corner of the next street, I saw wide-open the door of a
substantial large house, and went in. From bottom to top there was no
one there, except one English girl, sitting back in an easy-chair in the
drawing-room, which was richly furnished with Valenciennes curtains and
azure-satin things. She was a girl of the lowest class, hardly clad in
black rags, and there she lay with hanging jaw, in a very crooked and
awkward pose, a jemmy at her feet, in her left hand a roll of
bank-notes, and in her lap three watches. In fact, the bodies which I
saw here were, in general, either those of new-come foreigners, or else
of the very poor, the very old, or the very young.

But what made me remember this house was that I found here on one of the
sofas a newspaper: _The Kent Express_; and sitting unconscious of my
dead neighbour, I pored a long while over what was written there.

It said in a passage which I tore out and kept:

'Telegraphic communication with Tilsit, Insterburg, Warsaw, Cracow,
Przemysl, Gross Wardein, Karlsburg, and many smaller towns lying
immediately eastward of the 21st parallel of longitude has ceased during
the night. In some at least of them there must have been operators still
at their duty, undrawn into the great westward-rushing torrent: but as
all messages from Western Europe have been answered only by that dread
mysterious silence which, just three months and two days since,
astounded the world in the case of Eastern New Zealand, we can only
assume that these towns, too, have been added to the long and mournful
list; indeed, after last evening's Paris telegrams we might have
prophesied with some certainty, not merely their overthrow, but even the
hour of it: for the rate-uniformity of the slow-riding vapour which is
touring our globe is no longer doubtful, and has even been definitely
fixed by Professor Craven at 100-1/2 miles per day, or 4 miles 330 yards
per hour. Its nature, its origin, remains, of course, nothing but matter
of conjecture: for it leaves no living thing behind it: nor, God knows,
is that of any moment now to us who remain. The rumour that it is
associated with an odour of almonds is declared, on high authority, to
be improbable; but the morose purple of its impending gloom has been
attested by tardy fugitives from the face of its rolling and smoky
march.

'Is this the end? We do not, and cannot, believe it. Will the pure sky
which we to-day see above us be invaded in nine days, or less, by this
smoke of the Pit of Darkness? In spite of the assurances of the
scientists, we still doubt. For, if so, to what purpose that long drama
of History, in which we seem to see the Hand of the Dramaturgist?
Surely, the end of a Fifth Act should be obvious, satisfying to one's
sense of the complete: but History, so far, long as it has been,
resembles rather a Prologue than a Fifth Act. Can it be that the
Manager, utterly dissatisfied, would sweep all off, and 'hang up' the
piece for ever? Certainly, the sins of mankind have been as scarlet: and
if the fair earth which he has turned into Hell, send forth now upon him
the smoke of Hell, little the wonder. But we cannot yet believe. There
is a sparing strain in nature, and through the world, as a thread, is
spun a silence which smiles, and on the end of events we find placarded
large the words: "Why were ye afraid?" A dignified Hope, therefore--even
now, when we cower beneath this worldwide shadow of the wings of the
Condor of Death--becomes us: and, indeed, we see such an attitude among
some of the humblest of our people, from whose heart ascends the cry:
"Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Here, therefore, O Lord! O
Lord, look down, and save!

'But even as we thus write of hope, Reason, if we would hear her,
whispers us "fool": and inclement is the sky of earth. No more ships can
New York Harbour contain, and whereas among us men die weekly of
privations by the hundred thousand, yonder across the sea they perish by
the million: for where the rich are pinched, how can the poor live?
Already 700 out of the 1000 millions of our race have perished, and the
empires of civilisation have crumbled like sand-castles in a horror of
anarchy. Thousands upon thousands of unburied dead, anticipating the
more deliberate doom that comes and smokes, and rides and comes and
comes, and does not fail, encumber the streets of London, Manchester,
Liverpool. The guides of the nation have fled; the father stabs his
child, and the wife her husband, for a morsel of food; the fields lie
waste; wanton crowds carouse in our churches, universities, palaces,
banks and hospitals; we understand that late last night three
territorial regiments, the Munster Fusiliers, and the Lotian and East
Lancashire Regiments, riotously disbanded themselves, shooting two
officers; infectious diseases, as we all know, have spread beyond limit;
in several towns the police seem to have disappeared, and, in nearly
all, every vestige of decency; the results following upon the sudden
release of the convicts appear to be monstrous in the respective
districts; and within three short months Hell seems to have acquired
this entire planet, sending forth Horror, like a rabid wolf, and
Despair, like a disastrous sky, to devour and confound her. Hear,
therefore, O Lord, and forgive our iniquities! O Lord, we beseech Thee!
Look down, O Lord, and spare!'

     *       *       *       *       *

When I had read this, and the rest of the paper, which had one whole
sheet-side blank, I sat a long hour there, eyeing a little patch of the
purple ash on a waxed board near the corner where the girl sat with her
time-pieces, so useless in her Eternity; and there was not a feeling in
me, except a pricking of curiosity, which afterwards became morbid and
ravenous, to know something more of that cloud, or smoke, of which this
man spoke, of its dates, its origin, its nature, its minute details.
Afterwards, I went down, and entered several houses, searching for more
papers, but did not find any; then I found a paper-shop which was open,
with boards outside, but either it had been deserted, or printing must
have stopped about the date of the paper which I had read, for the only
three news-papers there were dated long prior, and I did not read them.

Now it was raining, and a blustering autumn day it was, distributing the
odours of the world, and bringing me continual mixed whiffs of flowers
and the hateful stench of decay. But I would not mind it much.

I wandered and wandered, till I was tired of spahi and bashi-bazouk, of
Greek and Catalan, of Russian 'pope' and Coptic abuna, of dragoman and
Calmuck, of Egyptian maulawi and Afghan mullah, Neapolitan and sheik,
and the nightmare of wild poses, colours, stuffs and garbs, the
yellow-green kefie of the Bedouin, shawl-turbans of Baghdad, the
voluminous rose-silk tob of women, and face-veils, and stark distorted
nakedness, and sashes of figured muslin, and the workman's cords, and
the red tarboosh. About four, for very weariness, I was sitting on a
door-steep, bent beneath the rain; but soon was up again, fascinated no
doubt by this changing bazaar of sameness, its chance combinations and
permutations, and novelty in monotony. About five I was at a station,
marked Harbour Station, in and about which lay a considerable crowd, but
not one train. I sat again, and rested, rose and roamed again; soon
after six I found myself at another station, called 'Priory'; and here I
saw two long trains, both crowded, one on a siding, and one at the
up-platform.

I examined both engines, and found them of the old boiler steam-type
with manholes, heaters, autoclaves, feed-pump, &c., now rare in western
countries, except England. In one there was no water, but in that at the
platform, the float-lever, barely tilted toward the float, showed that
there was some in the boiler. Of this one I overhauled all the
machinery, and found it good, though rusted. There was plenty of fuel,
and oil, which I supplemented from a near shop: and during ninety
minutes my brain and hands worked with an intelligence as it were
automatic, of their own motion. After three journeys across the station
and street, I saw the fire blaze well, and the manometer move; when the
lever of the safety-valve, whose load I lightened by half an atmosphere,
lifted, I jumped down, and tried to disconnect the long string of
carriages from the engine: but failed, the coupling being an automatic
arrangement new to me; nor did I care. It was now very dark; but there
was still oil for bull's-eye and lantern, and I lit them. I forgot
nothing. I rolled driver and stoker--the guard was absent--one to the
platform, one upon the rails: and I took their place there. At about
8.30 I ran out from Dover, my throttle-valve pealing high a long
falsetto through the bleak and desolate night.

       *       *       *       *       *

My aim was London. But even as I set out, my heart smote me: I knew
nothing of the metals, their junctions, facing-points, sidings,
shuntings, and complexities. Even as to whether I was going toward, or
away from, London, I was not sure. But just in proportion as my first
timorousness of the engine hardened into familiarity and self-sureness,
I quickened speed, wilfully, with an obstinacy deaf and blind.

Finally, from a mere crawl at first, I was flying at a shocking
velocity, while something, tongue in cheek, seemed to whisper me: 'There
must be other trains blocking the lines, at stations, in yards, and
everywhere--it is a maniac's ride, a ride of death, and Flying
Dutchman's frenzy: remember your dark five-deep brigade of passengers,
who rock and bump together, and will suffer in a collision.' But with
mulish stubbornness I thought: 'They wished to go to London'; and on I
raged, not wildly exhilarated, so far as I can remember, nor lunatic,
but feeling the dull glow of a wicked and morose Unreason urge in my
bosom, while I stoked all blackened at the fire, or saw the vague mass
of dead horse or cow, running trees and fields, and dark homestead and
deep-slumbering farm, flit ghostly athwart the murky air, as the
half-blind saw 'men like trees walking.'

Long, however, it did not last: I could not have been twenty miles from
Dover when, on a long reach of straight lines, I made out before me a
tarpaulined mass opposite a signal-point: and at once callousness
changed to terror within me. But even as I plied the brake, I felt that
it was too late: I rushed to the gangway to make a wild leap down an
embankment to the right, but was thrown backward by a quick series of
rough bumps, caused by eight or ten cattle which lay there across the
lines: and when I picked myself up, and leapt, some seconds before the
impact, the speed must have considerably slackened, for I received no
fracture, but lay in semi-coma in a patch of yellow-flowered whin on
level ground, and was even conscious of a fire on the lines forty yards
away, and, all the night, of vague thunder sounding from somewhere.

       *       *       *       *       *

About five, or half-past, in the morning I was sitting up, rubbing my
eyes, in a dim light mixed with drizzle. I could see that the train of
my last night's debauch was a huddled-up chaos of fallen carriages and
disfigured bodies. A five-barred gate on my left opened into a hedge,
and swung with creaks: two yards from my feet lay a little shaggy pony
with swollen wan abdomen, the very picture of death, and also about me a
number of dead wet birds.

I picked myself up, passed through the gate, and walked up a row of
trees to a house at their end. I found it to be a little country-tavern
with a barn, forming one house, the barn part much larger than the
tavern part. I went into the tavern by a small side-door--behind the
bar--into a parlour--up a little stair--into two rooms: but no one was
there. I then went round into the barn, which was paved with
cobble-stones, and there lay a dead mare and foal, some fowls, with two
cows. A ladder-stair led to a closed trap-door in the floor above. I
went up, and in the middle of a wilderness of hay saw nine
people--labourers, no doubt--five men and four women, huddled together,
and with them a tin-pail containing the last of some spirit; so that
these had died merry.

I slept three hours among them, and afterwards went back to the tavern,
and had some biscuits of which I opened a new tin, with some ham, jam
and apples, of which I made a good meal, for my pemmican was gone.

Afterwards I went following the rail-track on foot, for the engines of
both the collided trains were smashed. I knew northward from southward
by the position of the sun: and after a good many stoppages at houses,
and by railway-banks, I came, at about eleven in the night, to a great
and populous town.

By the Dane John and the Cathedral, I immediately recognised it as
Canterbury, which I knew quite well. And I walked up Castle Street to
the High Street, conscious for the first time of that
regularly-repeated sound, like a sob or groan, which was proceeding from
my throat. As there was no visible moon, and these old streets very dim,
I had to pick my way, lest I should desecrate the dead with my foot, and
they all should rise with hue and cry to hunt me. However, the bodies
here were not numerous, most, as before, being foreigners: and these,
scattered about this strict old English burg that mourning dark night,
presented such a scene of the baneful wrath of God, and all abomination
of desolation, as broke me quite down at one place, where I stood in
travail with jeremiads and sore sobbings and lamentations, crying out
upon it all, God knows.

Only when I stood at the west entrance of the Cathedral I could discern,
spreading up the dark nave, to the lantern, to the choir, a
phantasmagorical mass of forms: I went a little inward, and striking
three matches, peered nearer: the two transepts, too, seemed
crowded--the cloister-doorway was blocked--the southwest porch thronged,
so that a great congregation must have flocked hither shortly before
their fate overtook them.

Here it was that I became definitely certain that the after-odour of the
poison was not simply lingering in the air, but was being more or less
given off by the bodies: for the blossomy odour of this church actually
overcame that other odour, the whole rather giving the scent of old
mouldy linens long embalmed in cedars.

Well, away with stealthy trot I ran from the abysmal silence of that
place, and in Palace Street near made one of those sudden immoderate
rackets that seemed to outrage the universe, and left me so woefully
faint, decrepit, and gasping for life (the noise of the train was
different, for there I was flying, but here a captive, and which way I
ran was capture). Passing in Palace Street, I saw a little lampshop, and
wanting a lantern, tried to get in, but the door was locked; so, after
going a few steps, and kicking against a policeman's truncheon, I
returned to break the window-glass. I knew that it would make a fearful
noise, and for some fifteen or twenty minutes stood hesitating: but
never could I have dreamed, my good God, of _such_ a noise, so
passionate, so dominant, so divulgent, and, O Heaven, so long-lasting:
for I seemed to have struck upon the weak spot of some planet, which
came suddenly tumbling, with protracted bellowing and _débâcle_, about
my ears. It was a good hour before I would climb in; but then quickly
found what I wanted, and some big oil-cans; and till one or two in the
morning, the innovating flicker of my lantern went peering at random
into the gloomy nooks of the town.

Under a deep old Gothic arch that spanned a pavered alley, I saw the
little window of a little house of rubble, and between the two
diamond-paned sashes rags tightly beaten in, the idea evidently being to
make the place air-tight against the poison. When I went in I found the
door of that room open, though it, too, apparently, had been stuffed at
the edges; and on the threshold an old man and woman lay low. I
conjectured that, thus protected, they had remained shut in, till either
hunger, or the lack of oxygen in the used-up air, drove them forth,
whereupon the poison, still active, must have instantly ended them. I
found afterwards that this expedient of making air-tight had been widely
resorted to; and it might well have proved successful, if both the
supply of inclosed air, and of food, had been anywhere commensurate with
the durability of the poisonous state.

Weary, weary as I grew, some morbid persistence sustained me, and I
would not rest. About four in the morning I was at a station again,
industriously bending, poor wretch, at the sooty task of getting another
engine ready for travel. This time, when steam was up, I succeeded in
uncoupling the carriages from the engine, and by the time morning
broke, I was lightly gliding away over the country, whither I did not
know, but making for London.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I went with more intelligence and caution, and got on very well,
travelling seven days, never at night, except it was very clear, never
at more than twenty or twenty-five miles, and crawling through tunnels.
I do not know the maze into which the train took me, for very soon after
leaving Canterbury it must have gone down some branch-line, and though
the names were marked at stations, that hardly helped me, for of their
situation relatively to London I was seldom sure. Moreover, again and
again was my progress impeded by trains on the metals, when I would have
to run back to a shunting-point or a siding, and, in two instances,
these being far behind, changed from my own to the impeding engine. On
the first day I travelled unhindered till noon, when I stopped in open
country that seemed uninhabited for ages, only that half a mile to the
left, on a shaded sward, was a large stone house of artistic design,
coated with tinted harling, the roof of red Ruabon tiles, and timbered
gables. I walked to it after another row with putting out the fire and
arranging for a new one, the day being bright and mild, with great
masses of white cloud in the sky. The house had an outer and an inner
hall, three reception rooms, fine oil-paintings, a kind of museum, and a
large kitchen. In a bed-room above-stairs I found three women with
servants' caps, and a footman, arranged in a strange symmetrical way,
head to head, like rays of a star. As I stood looking at them, I could
have sworn, my good God, that I heard someone coming up the stairs. But
it was some slight creaking of the breeze in the house, augmented a
hundredfold to my inflamed and fevered hearing: for, used for years now
to this silence of Eternity, it is as though I hear all sounds through
an ear-trumpet. I went down, and after eating, and drinking some
clary-water, made of brandy, sugar, cinnamon, and rose water, which I
found in plenty, I lay down on a sofa in the inner hall, and slept a
quiet sleep until near midnight.

I went out then, still possessed with the foolish greed to reach London,
and after getting the engine to rights, went off under a clear black sky
thronged with worlds and far-sown spawn, some of them, I thought,
perhaps like this of mine, whelmed and drowned in oceans of silence,
with one only inhabitant to see it, and hear its silence. And all the
long night I travelled, stopping twice only, once to get the coal from
an engine which had impeded me, and once to drink some water, which I
took care, as always, should be running water. When I felt my head nod,
and my eyes close about 5 A.M., I threw myself, just outside the arch of
a tunnel upon a grassy bank, pretty thick with stalks and flowers, the
workings of early dawn being then in the east: and there, till near
eleven, slept.

On waking, I noticed that the country now seemed more like Surrey than
Kent: there was that regular swell and sinking of the land; but, in
fact, though it must have been either, it looked like neither, for
already all had an aspect of return to a state of wild nature, and I
could see that for a year at the least no hand had tended the soil. Near
before me was a stretch of lucerne of such extraordinary growth, that I
was led during that day and the succeeding one to examine the condition
of vegetation with some minuteness, and nearly everywhere I detected a
certain hypertrophie tendency in stamens, calycles, pericarps, and
pistils, in every sort of bulbiferous growth that I looked at, in the
rushes, above all, the fronds, mosses, lichens, and all cryptogamia, and
in the trefoils, clover especially, and some creepers. Many
crop-fields, it was clear, had been prepared, but not sown; some had
not been reaped: and in both cases I was struck with their appearance of
rankness, as I was also when in Norway, and was all the more surprised
that this should be the case at a time when a poison, whose action is
the arrest of oxidation, had traversed the earth; I could only conclude
that its presence in large volumes in the lower strata of the atmosphere
had been more or less temporary, and that the tendency to exuberance
which I observed was due to some principle by which Nature acts with
freer energy and larger scope in the absence of man.

Two yards from the rails I saw, when I got up, a little rill beside a
rotten piece of fence, barely oozing itself onward under masses of foul
and stagnant fungoids: and here there was a sudden splash, and life: and
I caught sight of the hind legs of a diving young frog. I went and lay
on my belly, poring over the clear dulcet little water, and presently
saw two tiny bleaks, or ablets, go gliding low among the swaying
moss-hair of the bottom-rocks, and thought how gladly would I be one of
them, with my home so thatched and shady, and my life drowned in their
wide-eyed reverie. At any rate, these little creatures are alive, the
batrachians also, and, as I found the next day, pupae and chrysales of
one sort or another, for, to my deep emotion, I saw a little white
butterfly staggering in the air over the flower-garden of a rustic
station named Butley.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was while I was lying there, poring upon that streamlet, that a
thought came into my head: for I said to myself: 'If now I be here
alone, alone, alone... alone, alone... one on the earth... and my girth
have a spread of 25,000 miles... what will happen to my mind? Into what
kind of creature shall I writhe and change? I may live two years so!
What will have happened then? I may live five years--ten! What will have
happened after the five? the ten? I may live twenty, thirty, forty...'

Already, already, there are things that peep and sprout within me...!

       *       *       *       *       *

I wanted food and fresh running water, and walked from the engine half a
mile through fields of lucerne whose luxuriance quite hid the
foot-paths, and reached my shoulder. After turning the brow of a hill, I
came to a park, passing through which I saw some dead deer and three
persons, and emerged upon a terraced lawn, at the end of which stood an
Early English house of pale brick with copings, plinths, stringcourses
of limestone, and spandrels of carved marble; and some distance from the
porch a long table, or series of tables, in the open air, still spread
with cloths that were like shrouds after a month of burial; and the
table had old foods on it, and some lamps; and all around it, and all on
the lawn, were dead peasants. I seemed to know the house, probably from
some print which I may have seen, but I could not make out the
escutcheon, though I saw from its simplicity that it must be very
ancient. Right across the façade spread still some of the letters in
evergreens of the motto: 'Many happy returns of the day,' so that
someone must have come of age, or something, for inside all was gala,
and it was clear that these people had defied a fate which they, of
course, foreknew. I went nearly throughout the whole spacious place of
thick-carpeted halls, marbles, and famous oils, antlers and arras, and
gilt saloons, and placid large bed-chambers: and it took me an hour.
There were here not less than a hundred and eighty people. In the first
of a vista of three large reception-rooms lay what could only have been
a number of quadrille parties, for to the _coup d'oeil_ they presented a
two-and-two appearance, made very repulsive by their jewels and
evening-dress. I had to steel my heart to go through this house, for I
did not know if these people were looking at me as soon as my back was
turned. Once I was on the very point of flying, for I was going up the
great central stairway, and there came a pelt of dead leaves against a
window-pane in a corridor just above on the first floor, which thrilled
me to the inmost soul. But I thought that if I once fled, they would all
be at me from behind, and I should be gibbering mad long, long before I
reached the outer hall, and so stood my ground, even defiantly
advancing. In a small dark bedroom in the north wing on the second
floor--that is to say, at the top of the house--I saw a tall young lady
and a groom, or wood-man, to judge by his clothes, horribly riveted in
an embrace on a settee, she with a light coronet on her head in
low-necked dress, and their lipless teeth still fiercely pressed
together. I collected in a bag a few delicacies from the under-regions
of this house, Lyons sausages, salami, mortadel, apples, roes, raisins,
artichokes, biscuits, a few wines, a ham, bottled fruit, pickles,
coffee, and so on, with a gold plate, tin-opener, cork-screw, fork, &c.,
and dragged them all the long way back to the engine before I could eat.

       *       *       *       *       *

My brain was in such a way, that it was several days before the
perfectly obvious means of finding my way to London, since I wished to
go there, at all occurred to me; and the engine went wandering the
intricate railway-system of the south country, I having twice to water
her with a coal-bucket from a pool, for the injector was giving no water
from the tank under the coals, and I did not know where to find any near
tank-sheds. On the fifth evening, instead of into London, I ran into
Guildford.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, from eleven till the next day, there was a great storm over
England: let me note it down. And ten days later, on the 17th of the
month came another; and on the 23rd another; and I should be put to it
to count the great number since. And they do not resemble English
storms, but rather Arctic ones, in a certain very suggestive something
of personalness, and a carousing malice, and a Tartarus gloom, which I
cannot quite describe. That night at Guildford, after wandering about,
and becoming very weary, I threw myself upon a cushioned pew in an old
Norman church with two east apses, called St. Mary's, using a
Bible-cushion for pillow, and placing some distance away a little tin
lamp turned low, whose ray served me for _veilleuse_ through the night.
Happily I had taken care to close up everything, or, I feel sure, the
roof must have gone. Only one dead, an old lady in a chapel on the north
side of the chancel, whom I rather mistrusted, was there with me: and
there I lay listening: for, after all, I could not sleep a wink, while
outside vogued the immense tempest. And I communed with myself,
thinking: 'I, poor man, lost in this conflux of infinitudes and vortex
of the world, what can become of me, my God? For dark, ah dark, is the
waste void into which from solid ground I am now plunged a million
fathoms deep, the sport of all the whirlwinds: and it were better for me
to have died with the dead, and never to have seen the wrath and
turbulence of the Ineffable, nor to have heard the thrilling bleakness
of the winds of Eternity, when they pine, and long, and whimper, and
when they vociferate and blaspheme, and when they expostulate and
intrigue and implore, and when they despair and die, which ear of man
should never hear. For they mean to eat me up, I know, these Titanic
darknesses: and soon like a whiff I shall pass away, and leave the world
to them.' So till next morning I lay mumping, with shivers and
cowerings: for the shocks of the storm pervaded the locked church to my
very heart; and there were thunders that night, my God, like callings
and laughs and banterings, exchanged between distant hill-tops in Hell.

       *       *       *       *       *

'Well, the next morning I went down the steep High Street, and found a
young nun at the bottom whom I had left the previous evening with a
number of girls in uniform opposite the Guildhall--half-way up the
street. She must have been spun down, arm over arm, for the wind was
westerly, and whereas I had left her completely dressed to her wimple
and beads, she was now nearly stripped, and her little flock scattered.
And branches of trees, and wrecked houses, and reeling clouds of dead
leaves were everywhere that wild morning.

This town of Guildford appeared to be the junction of an extraordinary
number of railway-lines, and before again setting out in the afternoon,
when the wind had lulled, having got an A B C guide, and a railway-map,
I decided upon my line, and upon a new engine, feeling pretty sure now
of making London, only thirty miles away. I then set out, and about five
o'clock was at Surbiton, near my aim; I kept on, expecting every few
minutes to see the great city, till darkness fell, and still, at
considerable risk, I went, as I thought, forward: but no London was
there. I had, in fact, been on a loop-line, and at Surbiton gone wrong
again; for the next evening I found myself at Wokingham, farther away
than ever.

I slept on a rug in the passage of an inn called The Rose, for there was
a wild, Russian-looking man, with projecting top-teeth, on a bed in the
house, whose appearance I did not like, and it was late, and I too tired
to walk further; and the next morning pretty early I set out again, and
at 10 A.M. was at Reading.

The notion of navigating the land by precisely the same means as the
sea, simple and natural as it was, had not at all occurred to me: but at
the first accidental sight of a compass in a little shop-window near the
river at Reading, my difficulties as to getting to any desired place in
the world vanished once and for all: for a good chart or map, the
compass, a pair of compasses, and, in the case of longer distances, a
quadrant, sextant or theodolite, with a piece of paper and pencil, were
all that were necessary to turn an engine into a land-ship, one choosing
the lines that ran nearest the direction of one's course, whenever they
did not run precisely.

Thus provided, I ran out from Reading about seven in the evening, while
there was still some light, having spent there some nine hours. This was
the town where I first observed that shocking crush of humanity, which
I afterwards met in every large town west of London. Here, I should say,
the English were quite equal in number to the foreigners: and there were
enough of both, God knows: for London must have poured many here. There
were houses, in every room of which, and on the stairs, the dead
actually overlay each other, and in the streets before them were points
where only on flesh, or under carriages, was it possible to walk. I went
into the great County Gaol, from which, as I had read, the prisoners had
been released two weeks before-hand, and there I found the same pressed
condition, cells occupied by ten or twelve, the galleries continuously
rough-paved with faces, heads, and old-clothes-shops of robes; and in
the parade-ground, against one wall, a mass of human stuff, like tough
grey clay mixed with rags and trickling black gore, where a crush as of
hydraulic power must have acted. At a corner between a gate and a wall
near the biscuit-factory of this town I saw a boy, whom I believe to
have been blind, standing jammed, at his wrist a chain-ring, and, at the
end of the chain, a dog; from his hap-hazard posture I conjectured that
he, and chain, and dog had been lifted from the street, and placed so,
by the storm of the 7th of the month; and what made it very curious was
that his right arm pointed a little outward just over the dog, so that,
at the moment when I first sighted him, he seemed a drunken fellow
setting his dog at me. In fact, all the dead I found much mauled and
stripped and huddled: and the earth seemed to be making an abortive
effort to sweep her streets.

Well, some little distance from Reading I saw a big flower-seed farm,
looking dead in some plots, and in others quite rank: and here again,
fluttering quite near the engine, two little winged aurelians in the
quiet evening air. I went on, passing a great number of crowded trains
on the down-line, two of them in collision, and very broken up, and one
exploded engine; even the fields and cuttings on either hand of the line
had a rather populous look, as if people, when trains and vehicles
failed, had set to trudging westward in caravans and streams. When I
came to a long tunnel near Slough, I saw round the foot of the arch an
extraordinary quantity of wooden _débris_, and as I went very slowly
through, was alarmed by the continuous bumping of the train, which, I
knew, was passing over bodies; at the other end were more _débris_; and
I easily guessed that a company of desperate people had made the tunnel
air-tight at the two arches, and provisioned themselves, with the hope
to live there till the day of destiny was passed; whereupon their
barricades must have been crashed through by some up-train and
themselves crushed, or else, other crowds, mad to share their cave of
refuge, had stormed the boardings. This latter, as I afterwards found,
was a very usual event.

I should very soon have got to London now, but, as my bad luck would
have it, I met a long up-train on the metals, with not one creature in
any part of it. There was nothing to do but to tranship, with all my
things, to its engine, which I found in good condition with plenty of
coal and water, and to set it going, a hateful labour: I being already
jet-black from hair to toes. However, by half-past ten I found myself
stopped by another train only a quarter of a mile from Paddington, and
walked the rest of the way among trains in which the standing dead still
stood, propped by their neighbours, and over metals where bodies were as
ordinary and cheap as waves on the sea, or twigs in a forest. I believe
that wild crowds had given chase on foot to moving trains, or fore-run
them in the frenzied hope of inducing them to stop.

I came to the great shed of glass and girders which is the station, the
night being perfectly soundless, moonless, starless, and the hour about
eleven.

I found later that all the electric generating-stations, or all that I
visited, were intact; that is to say, must have been shut down before
the arrival of the doom; also that the gas-works had almost certainly
been abandoned some time previously: so that this city of dreadful
night, in which, at the moment when Silence choked it, not less than
forty to sixty millions swarmed and droned, must have more resembled
Tartarus and the foul shades of Hell than aught to which my fancy can
liken it.

For, coming nearer the platforms, I saw that trains, in order to move at
all, must have moved through a slough of bodies pushed from behind, and
forming a packed homogeneous mass on the metals: and I knew that they
_had_ moved. Nor could _I_ now move, unless I decided to wade: for flesh
was everywhere, on the roofs of trains, cramming the interval between
them, on the platforms, splashing the pillars like spray, piled on
trucks and lorries, a carnal quagmire; and outside, it filled the space
between a great host of vehicles, carpeting all that region of London.
And all here that odour of blossoms, which nowhere yet, save on one vile
ship, had failed, was now wholly overcome by another: and the thought
was in my head, my God, that if the soul of man had sent up to Heaven
the odour which his body gave to me, then it was not so strange that
things were as they were.

I got out from the station, with ears, God knows, that still awaited the
accustomed noising of this accursed town, habituated as I now was to all
the dumb and absent void of Soundlessness; and I was overwhelmed in a
new awe, and lost in a wilder woesomeness, when, instead of lights and
business, I saw the long street which I knew brood darker than Babylons
long desolate, and in place of its ancient noising, heard, my God, a
shocking silence, rising higher than I had ever heard it, and blending
with the silence of the inane, eternal stars in heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

I could not get into any vehicle for some time, for all thereabouts was
practically a mere block; but near the Park, which I attained by
stooping among wheels, and selecting my foul steps, I overhauled a
Daimler car, found in it two cylinders of petrol, lit the ignition-lamp,
removed with averted abhorrence three bodies, mounted, and broke that
populous stillness. And through streets nowhere empty of bodies I went
urging eastward my jolting, and spattered, and humming way.

That I should have persisted, with so much pains, to come to this
unbounded catacomb, seems now singular to me: for by that time I could
not have been sufficiently daft to expect to find another being like
myself on the earth, though I cherished, I remember, the irrational hope
of yet somewhere finding dog, or cat, or horse, to be with me, and would
anon think bitterly of Reinhardt, my Arctic dog, which my own hand had
shot. But, in reality, a morbid curiosity must have been within me all
the time to read the real truth of what had happened, so far as it was
known, or guessed, and to gloat upon all that drama, and cup of
trembling, and pouring out of the vials of the wrath of God, which must
have preceded the actual advent of the end of Time. This inquisitiveness
had, at every town which I reached, made the search for newspapers
uppermost in my mind; but, by bad luck, I had found only four, all of
them ante-dated to the one which I had read at Dover, though their dates
gave me some idea of the period when printing must have ceased, viz.
soon after the 17th July--about three months subsequent to my arrival at
the Pole--for none I found later than this date; and these contained
nothing scientific, but only orisons and despairings. On arriving,
therefore, at London, I made straight for the office of the _Times_,
only stopping at a chemist's in Oxford Street for a bottle of antiseptic
to hold near my nose, though, having once left the neighbourhood of
Paddington, I had hardly much need of this.

I made my way to the square where the paper was printed, to find that,
even there, the ground was closely strewn with calpac and pugaree, black
abayeh and fringed praying-shawl, hob-nail and sandal, figured lungi and
striped silk, all very muddled and mauled. Through the dark square to
the twice-dark building I passed, and found open the door of an
advertisement-office; but on striking a match, saw that it had been
lighted by electricity, and had therefore to retrace my stumbling steps,
till I came to a shop of lamps in a near alley, walking meantime with
timid cares that I might hurt no one--for in this enclosed neighbourhood
I began to feel strange tremors, and kept striking matches, which, so
still was the black air, hardly flickered.

When I returned to the building with a little lighted lamp, I at once
saw a file on a table, and since there were a number of dead there, and
I wished to be alone, I took the heavy mass of paper between my left arm
and side, and the lamp in my right hand; passed then behind a counter;
and then, to the right, up a stair which led me into a very great
building and complexity of wooden steps and corridors, where I went
peering, the lamp visibly trembling in my hand, for here also were the
dead. Finally, I entered a good-sized carpeted room with a baize-covered
table in the middle, and large smooth chairs, and on the table many
manuscripts impregnated with purple dust, and around were books in
shelves. This room had been locked upon a single man, a tall man in a
frock-coat, with a pointed grey beard, who at the last moment had
decided to fly from it, for he lay at the threshold, apparently fallen
dead the moment he opened the door. Him, by drawing his feet aside, I
removed, locked the door upon myself, sat at the table before the dusty
file, and, with the little lamp near, began to search.

I searched and read till far into the morning. But God knows, He
alone....

I had not properly filled the little reservoir with oil, and at about
three in the fore-day, it began to burn sullenly lower, letting sparks,
and turning the glass grey: and in my deepest chilly heart was the
question: 'Suppose the lamp goes out before the daylight....'

I knew the Pole, and cold, I knew them well: but to be frozen by panic,
my God! I read, I say, I searched, I would not stop: but I read that
night racked by terrors such as have never yet entered into the heart
of man to conceive. My flesh moved and crawled like a lake which, here
and there, the breeze ruffles. Sometimes for two, three, four minutes,
the profound interest of what I read would fix my mind, and then I would
peruse an entire column, or two, without consciousness of the meaning of
one single word, my brain all drawn away to the innumerable host of the
wan dead that camped about me, pierced with horror lest they should
start, and stand, and accuse me: for the grave and the worm was the
world; and in the air a sickening stirring of cerements and shrouds; and
the taste of the pale and insubstantial grey of ghosts seemed to infect
my throat, and faint odours of the loathsome tomb my nostrils, and the
toll of deep-toned passing-bells my ears; finally the lamp smouldered
very low, and my charnel fancy teemed with the screwing-down of coffins,
lych-gates and sextons, and the grating of ropes that lower down the
dead, and the first sound of the earth upon the lid of that strait and
gloomy home of the mortal; that lethal look of cold dead fingers I
seemed to see before me, the insipidness of dead tongues, the pout of
the drowned, and the vapid froths that ridge their lips, till my flesh
was moist as with the stale washing-waters of morgues and mortuaries,
and with such sweats as corpses sweat, and the mawkish tear that lies
on dead men's cheeks; for what is one poor insignificant man in his
flesh against a whole world of the disembodied, he alone with them, and
nowhere, nowhere another of his kind, to whom to appeal against them? I
read, and I searched: but God, God knows ... If a leaf of the paper,
which I slowly, warily, stealingly turned, made but one faintest rustle,
how did that _reveille_ boom in echoes through the vacant and haunted
chambers of my poor aching heart, my God! and there was a cough in my
throat which for a cruelly long time I would not cough, till it burst in
horrid clamour from my lips, sending crinkles of cold through my inmost
blood. For with the words which I read were all mixed up visions of
crawling hearses, wails, and lugubrious crapes, and piercing shrieks of
madness in strange earthy vaults, and all the mournfulness of the black
Vale of Death, and the tragedy of corruption. Twice during the ghostly
hours of that night the absolute and undeniable certainty that some
presence--some most gashly silent being--stood at my right elbow, so
thrilled me, that I leapt to my feet to confront it with clenched fists,
and hairs that bristled stiff in horror and frenzy. After that second
time I must have fainted; for when it was broad day, I found my dropped
head over the file of papers, supported on my arms. And I resolved then
never again after sunset to remain in any house: for that night was
enough to kill a horse, my good God; and that this is a haunted planet I
know.

       *       *       *       *       *

What I read in the _Times_ was not very definite, for how could it be?
but in the main it confirmed inferences which I had myself drawn, and
fairly satisfied my mind.

There had been a battle royal in the paper between my old collaborator
Professor Stanistreet and Dr. Martin Rogers, and never could I have
conceived such an indecorous piece of business, men like them calling
one another 'tyro,' 'dreamer,' and in one place 'block-head.'
Stanistreet denied that the perfumed odour of almonds attributed to the
advancing cloud could be due to anything but the excited fancy of the
reporting fugitives, because, said he, it was unknown that either Cn,
HCn, or K_4FeCn_6 had been given out by volcanoes, and the
destructiveness to life of the travelling cloud could only be owing to
CO and CO_2. To this Rogers, in an article characterised by
extraordinary heat, replied that he could not understand how even a
'tyro'(!) in chemical and geological phenomena would venture to rush
into print with the statement that HCn had not commonly been given out
by volcanoes: that it _had_ been, he said, was perfectly certain; though
whether it had been or not could not affect the decision of a reasoning
mind as to whether it was being: for that cyanogen, as a matter of fact,
was not rare in nature, though not directly occurring, being one of the
products of the common distillation of pit-coal, and found in roots,
peaches, almonds, and many tropical flora; also that it had been
actually pointed out as probable by more than one thinker that some salt
or salts of Cn, the potassic, or the potassic ferrocyanide, or both,
must exist in considerable stores in the earth at volcanic depths. In
reply to this, Stanistreet in a two-column article used the word
'dreamer,' and Rogers, when Berlin had been already silenced, finally
replied with his amazing 'block-head.' But, in my opinion, by far the
most learned and lucid of the scientific dicta was from the rather
unexpected source of Sloggett, of the Dublin Science and Art Department:
he, without fuss, accepted the statements of the fugitive eye-witnesses,
down to the assertion that the cloud, as it rolled travelling, seemed
mixed from its base to the clouds with languid tongues of purple flame,
rose-coloured at their edges. This, Sloggett explained, was the
characteristic flame of both cyanogen and hydrocyanic acid vapour,
which, being inflammable, may have become locally ignited in the passage
over cities, and only burned in that limited and languid way on account
of the ponderous volumes of carbonic anhydride with which they must, of
course, be mixed: the dark empurpled colour was due to the presence of
large quantities of the scoriae of the trappean rocks: basalts,
green-stone, trachytes, and the various porphyries. This article was
most remarkable for its clear divination, because written so early--not
long, in fact, after the cessation of telegraphic communication with
Australia and China; and at a date so early Sloggett stated that the
character of the devastation not only proved an eruption--another, but
far greater Krakatoa--probably in some South Sea region, but indicated
that its most active product must be, not CO, but potassic ferrocyanide
(K_4FeCn_6), which, undergoing distillation with the products of sulphur
in the heat of eruption, produced hydrocyanic acid (HCn); and this
volatile acid, he said, remaining in a vaporous state in all climates
above a temperature of 26.5° C., might involve the entire earth, if the
eruption proved sufficiently powerful, travelling chiefly in a direction
contrary to the earth's west-to-east motion, the only regions which
would certainly be exempt being the colder regions of the Arctic
circles, where the vapour of the acid would assume the liquid state, and
fall as rain. He did not anticipate that vegetation would be permanently
affected, unless the eruption were of inconceivable duration and
activity, for though the poisonous quality of hydrocyanic acid consisted
in its sudden and complete arrest of oxidation, vegetation had two
sources of life--the soil as well as the air; with this exception, all
life, down to the lowest evolutionary forms, would disappear (here was
the one point in which he was somewhat at fault), until the earth
reproduced them. For the rest, he fixed the rate of the on-coming cloud
at from 100 to 105 miles a day; and the date of eruption, either the
14th, 15th, or 16th of April--which was either one, two, or three days
after the arrival of the _Boreal_ party at the Pole; and he concluded by
saying that, if the facts were as he had stated them, then he could
suggest no hiding-place for the race of man, unless such places as mines
and tunnels could be made air-tight; nor could even they be of use to
any considerable number, except in the event of the poisonous state of
the air being of very short duration.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had thought of mines before: but in a very languid way, till this
article, and other things that I read, as it were struck my brain a slap
with the notion. For 'there,' I said, 'if anywhere, shall I find a
man....'

       *       *       *       *       *

I went out from that building that morning feeling like a man bowed down
with age, for the depths of unutterable horror into which I had had
glimpses during that one night made me very feeble, and my steps
tottered, and my brain reeled.

I got out into Farringdon Street, and at the near Circus, where four
streets meet, had under my furthest range of vision nothing but four
fields of bodies, bodies, clad in a rag-shop of every faded colour, or
half-clad, or not clad at all, actually, in many cases, over-lying one
another, as I had seen at Reading, but here with a markedly more
skeleton appearance: for I saw the swollen-looking shoulders, sharp
hips, hollow abdomens, and stiff bony limbs of people dead from famine,
the whole having the grotesque air of some _macabre_ battle-field of
fallen marionettes. Mixed with these was an extraordinary number of
vehicles of all sorts, so that I saw that driving among them would be
impracticable, whereas the street which I had taken during the night
was fairly clear. I thought a minute what I should do: then went by a
parallel back-street, and came out to a shop in the Strand, where I
hoped to find all the information which I needed about the excavations
of the country. The shutters were up, and I did not wish to make any
noise among these people, though the morning was bright, it being about
ten o'clock, and it was easy to effect entrance, for I saw a crow-bar in
a big covered furniture-van near. I, therefore, went northward, till I
came to the British Museum, the cataloguing-system of which I knew well,
and passed in. There was no one at the library-door to bid me stop, and
in the great round reading-room not a soul, except one old man with a
bag of goître hung at his neck, and spectacles, he lying up a
book-ladder near the shelves, a 'reader' to the last. I got to the
printed catalogues, and for an hour was upstairs among the dim sacred
galleries of this still place, and at the sight of certain Greek and
Coptic papyri, charters, seals, had such a dream of this ancient earth,
my good God, as even an angel's pen could not half express on paper.
Afterwards, I went away loaded with a good hundred-weight of
Ordnance-maps, which I had stuffed into a bag found in the cloak-room,
with three topographical books; I then, at an instrument-maker's in
Holborn, got a sextant and theodolite, and at a grocer's near the river
put into a sack-bag provisions to last me a week or two; at Blackfriars
Bridge wharf-station I found a little sharp white steamer of a few tons,
which happily was driven by liquid air, so that I had no troublesome
fire to light: and by noon I was cutting my solitary way up the Thames,
which flowed as before the ancient Britons were born, and saw it, and
built mud-huts there amid the primaeval forest; and afterwards the
Romans came, and saw it, and called it Tamesis, or Thamesis.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, as I lay asleep on the cabin-cushions of my little boat
under the lee of an island at Richmond, I had a clear dream, in which
something, or someone, came to me, and asked me a question: for it said:
'Why do you go seeking another man?--that you may fall upon him, and
kiss him? or that you may fall upon him, and murder him?' And I answered
sullenly in my dream: 'I would not murder him. I do not wish to murder
anyone.'

       *       *       *       *       *

What was essential to me was to know, with certainty, whether I was
really alone: for some instinct began to whisper me: 'Find that out: be
sure, be sure: for without the assurance you can never be--yourself.'

I passed into the great Midland Canal, and went northward, leisurely
advancing, for I was in no hurry. The weather remained very warm, and
great part of the country was still dressed in autumn leaves. I have
written, I think, of the terrific character of the tempests witnessed in
England since my return: well, the calms were just as intense and novel.
This observation was forced upon me: and I could not but be surprised.
There seemed no middle course now: if there was a wind, it was a storm:
if there was not a storm, no leaf stirred, not a roughening zephyr ran
the water. I was reminded of maniacs that laugh now, and rave now--but
never smile, and never sigh.

On the fourth afternoon I passed by Leicester, and the next morning left
my pleasant boat, carrying maps and compass, and at a small station took
engine, bound for Yorkshire, where I loitered and idled away two foolish
months, sometimes travelling by steam-engine, sometimes by automobile,
sometimes by bicycle, and sometimes on foot, till the autumn was quite
over.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were two houses in London to which especially I had thought to
go: one in Harley Street, and one in Hanover Square: but when it came to
the point, I would not; and there was a little embowered home in
Yorkshire, where I was born, to which I thought to go: but I would not,
confining myself for many days to the eastern half of the county.

One morning, while passing on foot along the coast-wall from Bridlington
to Flambro', on turning my eyes from the sea, I was confronted by a
thing which for a moment or two struck me with the most profound
astonishment. I had come to a mansion, surrounded by trees, three
hundred yards from the cliffs: and there, on a path at the bottom of the
domain, right before me, was a board marked: 'Trespassers will be
Prosecuted.' At once a mad desire--the first which I had had--to laugh,
to roar with laughter, to send wild echoes of merriment clapping among
the chalk gullies, and abroad on the morning air, seized upon me: but I
kept it under, though I could not help smiling at this poor man, with
his little delusion that a part of the earth was his.

Here the cliffs are, I should say, seventy feet high, broken by frequent
slips in the upper stratum of clay, and, as I proceeded, climbing
always, I encountered some rather formidable gullies in the chalk, down
and then up which I had to scramble, till I came to a great mound or
barrier, stretching right across the great promontory, and backed by a
natural ravine, this, no doubt, having been raised as a rampart by some
of those old invading pirate-peoples, who had their hot life-scuffle,
and are done now, like the rest. Going on, I came to a bay in the cliff,
with a great number of boats lodged on the slopes, some quite high,
though the declivities are steep; toward the inner slopes is a lime-kiln
which I explored, but found no one there. When I came out on the other
side, I saw the village, with an old tower at one end, on a bare stretch
of land; and thence, after an hour's rest in the kitchen of a little
inn, went out to the coast-guard station, and the lighthouse.

Looking across the sea eastward, the light-keepers here must have seen
that thick cloud of convolving browns and purples, perhaps mixed with
small tongues of fire, slowly walking the water, its roof in the clouds,
upon them: for this headland is in precisely the same longitude as
London; and, reckoning from the hour when, as recorded in the _Times_,
the cloud was seen from Dover over Calais, London and Flambro' must have
been overtaken soon after three o'clock on the Sunday afternoon, the
25th July. At sight in open daylight of a doom so gloomy--prophesied,
but perhaps hoped against to the last, and now come--the light-keepers
must have fled howling, supposing them to have so long remained faithful
to duty: for here was no one, and in the village very few. In this
lighthouse, which is a circular white tower, eighty feet high, on the
edge of the cliff, is a book for visitors to sign their names: and I
will write something down here in black and white: for the secret is
between God only, and me: After reading a few of the names, I took my
pencil, and I wrote my name there.

       *       *       *       *       *

The reef before the Head stretches out a quarter of a mile, looking bold
in the dead low-water that then was, and showing to what extent the sea
has pushed back this coast, three wrecks impaled on them, and a big
steamer quite near, waiting for the first movements of the already
strewn sea to perish. All along the cliff-wall to the bluff crowned by
Scarborough Castle northward, and to the low vanishing coast of
Holderness southward, appeared those cracks and caves which had brought
me here, though there seemed no attempts at barricades; however, I got
down a rough slope on the south side to a rude wild beach, strewn with
wave-worn masses of chalk: and never did I feel so paltry and short a
thing as there, with far-outstretched bays of crags about me, their
bluffs encrusted at the base with stale old leprosies of shells and
barnacles, and crass algae-beards, and, higher up, the white cliff all
stained and weather-spoiled, the rock in some parts looking quite
chalky, and elsewhere gleaming hard and dull like dirty marbles, while
in the huge withdrawals of the coast yawn darksome gullies and caverns.
Here, in that morning's walk, I saw three little hermit-crabs, a limpet,
and two ninnycocks in a pool of weeds under a bearded rock. What
astonished me here, and, indeed, above, and everywhere, in London even,
and other towns, was the incredible number of birds that strewed the
ground, at some points resembling a real rain, birds of nearly every
sort, including tropic specimens: so that I had to conclude that they,
too, had fled before the cloud from country to country, till conquered
by weariness and grief, and then by death.

By climbing over rocks thick with periwinkles, and splashing through
great sloppy stretches of crinkled sea-weed, which give a raw stench of
brine, I entered the first of the gullies: a narrow, long, winding one,
with sides polished by the sea-wash, and the floor rising inwards. In
the dark interior I struck matches, able still to hear from outside the
ponderous spasmodic rush and jostle of the sea between the crags of the
reef, but now quite faintly. Here, I knew, I could meet only dead men,
but urged by some curiosity, I searched to the end, wading in the middle
through a three-feet depth of sea-weed twine: but there was no one; and
only belemnites and fossils in the chalk. I searched several to the
south of the headland, and then went northward past it toward another
opening and place of perched boats, called in the map North Landing:
where, even now, a distinct smell of fish, left by the old crabbers and
herring-fishers, was perceptible. A number of coves and bays opened as I
proceeded; a faded green turf comes down in curves at some parts on the
cliff-brows, like wings of a young soldier's hair, parted in the middle,
and plastered on his brow; isolated chalk-masses are numerous, obelisks,
top-heavy columns, bastions; at one point no less than eight headlands
stretched to the end of the world before me, each pierced by its arch,
Norman or Gothic, in whole or in half; and here again caves, in one of
which I found a carpet-bag stuffed with a wet pulp like bread, and,
stuck to the rock, a Turkish tarboosh; also, under a limestone quarry,
five dead asses: but no man. The east coast had evidently been shunned.
Finally, in the afternoon I reached Filey, very tired, and there slept.

       *       *       *       *       *

I went onward by train-engine all along the coast to a region of
iron-ore, alum, and jet-excavations round Whitby and Middlesborough. By
by-ways near the small place of Goldsborough I got down to the shore at
Kettleness, and reached the middle of a bay in which is a cave called
the Hob-Hole, with excavations all around, none of great depth, made by
jet-diggers and quarrymen. In the cave lay a small herd of cattle,
though for what purpose put there I cannot guess; and in the
jet-excavations I found nothing. A little further south is the chief
alum-region, as at Sandsend, but as soon as I saw a works, and the great
gap in the ground like a crater, where the lias is quarried, containing
only heaps of alum-shale, brushwood-stacks, and piles of cement-nodules
extracted from the lias, I concluded that here could have been found no
hiding; nor did I purposely visit the others, though I saw two later.
From round Whitby, and those rough moors, I went on to Darlington, not
far now from my home: but I would not continue that way, and after two
days' indecisive lounging, started for Richmond and the lead mines
about Arkengarth Dale, near Reeth. Here begins a region of mountain,
various with glens, fells, screes, scars, swards, becks, passes,
villages, river-heads, and dales. Some of the faces which I saw in it
almost seemed to speak to me in a broad dialect which I knew. But they
were not numerous in proportion: for all this country-side must have had
its population multiplied by at least some hundreds; and the villages
had rather the air of Danube, Levant, or Spanish villages. In one, named
Marrick, I saw that the street had become the scene either of a great
battle or a great massacre; and soon I was everywhere coming upon men
and women, English and foreign, dead from violence: cracked heads,
wounds, unhung jaws, broken limbs, and so on. Instead of going direct to
the mines from Reeth, that waywardness which now rules my mind, as
squalls an abandoned boat, took me somewhat further south-west to the
village of Thwaite, which I actually could not enter, so occupied with
dead was every spot on which the eye rested a hundred yards about it.
Not far from here I turned up, on foot now, a very steep, stony road to
the right, which leads over the Buttertubs Pass into Wensleydale, the
day being very warm and bright, with large clouds that looked like
lakes of molten silver giving off grey fumes in their centre, casting
moody shadows over the swardy dale, which below Thwaite expands, showing
Muker two miles off, the largest village of Upper Swaledale. Soon,
climbing, I could look down upon miles of Swaledale and the hills
beyond, a rustic panorama of glens and grass, river and cloudshadow, and
there was something of lightness in my step that fair day, for I had
left all my maps and things, except one, at Reeth, to which I meant to
return, and the earth, which is very good, was--mine. The ascent was
rough, and also long: but if I paused and looked behind--I saw, I saw.
Man's notion of a Heaven, a Paradise, reserved for the spirits of the
good, clearly arose from impressions which the earth made upon his mind:
for no Paradise can be fairer than this; just as his notion of a Hell
arose from the squalid mess into which his own foolish habits of thought
and action turned this Paradise. At least, so it struck me then: and,
thinking it, there was a hiss in my breath, as I went up into what more
and more acquired the character of a mountain pass, with points of
almost Alpine savagery: for after I had skirted the edge of a deep glen
on the left, the slopes changed in character, heather was on the
mountain-sides, a fretting beck sent up its noise, then screes, and
scars, and a considerable waterfall, and a landscape of crags; and
lastly a broad and rather desolate summit, palpably nearer the clouds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two days later I was at the mines: and here I first saw that wide-spread
scene of horror with which I have since become familiar. The story of
six out of ten of them all is the same, and short: selfish 'owners,' an
ousted world, an easy bombardment, and the destruction of all concerned,
before the arrival of the cloud in many cases. About some of the Durham
pit-mouths I have been given the impression that the human race lay
collected there; and that the notion of hiding himself in a mine must
have occurred to every man alive, and sent him thither.

In these lead mines, as in most vein-mining, there are more shafts than
in collieries, and hardly any attempt at artificial ventilation, except
at rises, winzes and cul-de-sacs. I found accordingly that, though their
depth does not exceed three hundred feet, suffocation must often have
anticipated the other dreaded death. In nearly every shaft, both up-take
and down-take, was a ladder, either of the mine, or of the fugitives,
and I was able to descend without difficulty, having dressed myself in a
house at the village in a check flannel shirt, a pair of two-buttoned
trousers with circles of leather at the knees, thick boots, and a
miner's hat, having a leather socket attached to it, into which fitted a
straight handle from a cylindrical candlestick; with this light, and
also a Davy-lamp, which I carried about with me for a good many months,
I lived for the most part in the deeps of the earth, searching for the
treasure of a life, to find everywhere, in English duckies and guggs,
Pomeranian women in gaudy stiff cloaks, the Walachian, the Mameluk, the
Khirgiz, the Bonze, the Imaum, and almost every type of man.

       *       *       *       *       *

One most brilliant Autumn day I walked by the village market-cross at
Barnard, come at last, but with a tenderness in my heart, and a
reluctance, to where I was born; for I said I would go and see my sister
Ada, and--the other old one. I leaned and loitered a long time on the
bridge, gazing up to the craggy height, which is heavy with waving wood,
and crowned by the Castle-tower, the Tees sweeping round the
mountain-base, smooth here and sunlit, but a mile down, where I wished
to go, but would not, brawling bedraggled and lacerated, like a sweet
strumpet, all shallow among rocks under reaches of shadow--the shadow of
Rokeby Woods. I climbed very leisurely up the hill-side, having in my
hand a bag with a meal, and up the stair in the wall to the top I went,
where there is no parapet, but a massiveness of wall that precludes
danger; and here in my miner's attire I sat three hours, brooding
sleepily upon the scene of lush umbrageous old wood that marks the long
way the river takes, from Marwood Chase up above, and where the rapid
Balder bickers in, down to bowery Rokeby, touched now with autumn; the
thickness of trees lessening away toward the uplands, where there are
far etherealized stretches of fields within hedgerows, and in the sunny
mirage of the farthest azure remoteness hints of lonesome moorland. It
was not till near three that I went down along the river, then, near
Rokeby, traversing the old meadow, and ascending the old hill: and
there, as of old, was the little black square with yellow letters on the
gate-wall:

  HUNT HILL HOUSE.

No part, no house, I believe, of this country-side was empty of strange
corpses: and they were in Hunt Hill, too. I saw three in the weedy plot
to the right of the garden-path, where once the hawthorn and lilac tree
had grown from well-rollered grass, and in the little bush-wilderness to
the left, which was always a wilderness, one more: and in the
breakfast-room, to the right of the hall, three; and in the new wooden
clinker-built attachment opening upon the breakfast-room, two, half
under the billiard-table; and in her room overlooking the porch on the
first floor, the long thin form of my mother on her bed, with crushed-in
left temple, and at the foot of the bed, face-downward on the floor,
black-haired Ada in a night-dress.

Of all the men and women who died, they two alone had burying. For I
digged a hole with the stable-spade under the front lilac; and I wound
them in the sheets, foot and form and head; and, not without throes and
qualms, I bore and buried them there.

       *       *       *       *       *

Some time passed after this before the long, multitudinous, and
perplexing task of visiting the mine-regions again claimed me. I found
myself at a place called Ingleborough, which is a big table-mountain,
with a top of fifteen to twenty acres, from which the sea is visible
across Lancashire to the west; and in the sides of this strange hill are
a number of caves which I searched during three days, sleeping in a
garden-shed at a very rural and flower-embowered village, for every room
in it was thronged, a place marked Clapham in the chart, in Clapdale,
which latter is a dale penetrating the slopes of the mountain: and there
I found by far the greatest of the caves which I saw, having ascended a
path from the village to a hollow between two grass slopes, where there
is a beck, and so entering an arch to the left, screened by trees, into
the limestone cliff. The passage narrows pretty rapidly inwards, and I
had not proceeded two yards before I saw the clear traces of a great
battle here. All this region had, in fact, been invaded, for the cave
must have been famous, though I did not remember it myself, and for some
miles round the dead were pretty frequent, making the immediate approach
to the cave a matter for care, if the foot was to be saved from
pollution. It is clear that there had been an iron gate across the
entrance, that within this a wall had been built across, shutting in I
do not know how many, perhaps one or two, perhaps hundreds: and both
gate and wall had been stormed and broken down, for there still were the
sledges and rocks which, without doubt, had done it. I had a lamp, and
at my forehead the lighted candle, and I went on quickly, seeing it
useless now to choose my steps where there was no choice, through a
passage incrusted, roof and sides, with a scabrous petrified lichen, the
roof low for some ninety yards, covered with down-looking cones, like
an inverted forest of children's toy-trees. I then came to a round hole,
apparently artificial, opening through a curtain of stalagmitic
formation into a great cavern beyond, which was quite animated and
festal with flashes, sparkles, and diamond-lustres, hung in their
myriads upon a movement of the eye, these being produced by large
numbers of snowy wet stalagmites, very large and high, down the centre
of which ran a continuous long lane of clothes and hats and faces; with
hasty reluctant feet I somehow passed over them, the cave all the time
widening, thousands of stalactites appearing on the roof of every size,
from virgin's breast to giant's club, and now everywhere the wet drip,
drip, as it were a populous busy bazaar of perspiring brows and hurrying
feet, in which the only business is to drip. Where stalactite meets
stalagmite there are pillars: where stalactite meets stalactite in
fissures long or short there are elegances, flimsy draperies, delicate
fantasies; there were also pools of water in which hung heads and feet,
and there were vacant spots at outlying spaces, where the arched roof,
which continually heightened itself, was reflected in the chill gleam of
the floor. Suddenly, the roof came down, the floor went up, and they
seemed to meet before me; but looking, I found a low opening, through
which, drawing myself on the belly over slime for some yards in
repulsive proximity to dead personalities, I came out upon a floor of
sand and pebbles under a long dry tunnel, arched and narrow, grim and
dull, without stalactites, suggestive of monks, and catacomb-vaults, and
the route to the grave; and here the dead were much fewer, proving
either that the general mob had not had time to penetrate so far inward,
or else that those within, if they were numerous, had gone out to
defend, or to harken to, the storm of their citadel. This passage led me
into an open space, the grandest of all, loftily vaulted, full of genie
riches and buried treasures of light, the million-fold _ensemble_ of
lustres dancing schottishe with the eye, as it moved or was still: this
place, I should guess, being quite half a mile from the entrance. My
prying lantern showed me here only nineteen dead, men of various
nations, and at the far end two holes in the floor, large enough to
admit the body, through which from below came up a sound of falling
water. Both of these holes, I could see, had been filled with cement
concrete--wisely, I fancy, for a current of air from somewhere seemed to
be now passing through them: and this would have resulted in the death
of the hiders. Both, however, of the fillings had been broken through,
one partially, the other wholly, by the ignorant, I presume, who
thought to hide in a secret place yet beyond, where they may have
believed, on seeing the artificial work, that others were. I had my ear
a long time at one of these openings, listening to that mysterious chant
down below in a darkness most murky and dismal; and afterwards, spurred
by the stubborn will which I had to be thorough, I went back, took a
number of outer robes from the bodies, tied them well together, then one
end round the nearest pillar, and having put my mouth to the hole,
calling: _'Anyone? Anyone?'_ let myself down by the rope of garments,
the candle at my head: I had not, however, descended far into those
mournful shades, when my right foot plunged into water: and instantly
the feeling of terror pierced me that all the evil things in the
universe were at my leg to drag me down to Hell: and I was up quicker
than I went down: nor did my flight cease till, with a sigh of
deliverance, I found myself in open air.

       *       *       *       *       *

After this, seeing that the autumn warmth was passing away, I set myself
with more system to my task, and within the next six months worked with
steadfast will, and strenuous assiduity, seeking, not indeed for a man
in a mine, but for some evidence of the possibility that a man might be
alive, visiting in that time Northumberland and Durham, Fife and
Kinross, South Wales and Monmouthshire, Cornwall and the Midlands, the
lead mines of Derbyshire, of Allandale and other parts of
Northumberland, of Alston Moor and other parts of Cumberland, of
Arkendale and other parts of Yorkshire, of the western part of Durham,
of Salop, of Cornwall, of the Mendip Hills of Somersetshire, of Flint,
Cardigan, and Montgomery, of Lanark and Argyll, of the Isle of Man, of
Waterford and Down; I have gone down the 360-ft. Grand Pipe iron ladder
of the abandoned graphite-mine at Barrowdale in Cumberland, half-way up
a mountain 2,000 feet high; and visited where cobalt and manganese ore
is mined in pockets at the Foel Hiraeddog mine near Rhyl in Flintshire,
and the lead and copper Newton Stewart workings in Galloway; the Bristol
coal-fields, and mines of South Staffordshire, where, as in Somerset,
Gloucester, and Shropshire, the veins are thin, and the mining-system is
the 'long-wall,' whereas in the North, and Wales, the system is the
'pillar-and stall'; I have visited the open workings for iron ores of
Northamptonshire, and the underground stone-quarries, and the
underground slate-quarries, with their alternate pillars and chambers,
in the Festiniog district of North Wales; also the rock-salt workings;
the tin, copper and cobalt workings of Cornwall; and where the minerals
were brought to the surface on the backs of men, and where they were
brought by adit-levels provided with rail-roads, and where, as in old
Cornish mines, there are two ladders in the shaft, moved up and down
alternately, see-saw, and by skipping from one to the other at right
moments you ascended or descended, and where the drawing-up is by a gin
or horse-whinn, with vertical drum; the Tisbury and Chilmark quarries in
Wiltshire, the Spinkwell and Cliffwood quarries in Yorkshire; and every
tunnel, and every recorded hole: for something urged within me, saying:
'You must be sure first, or you can never be--yourself.'

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Farnbrook Coal-field, in the Red Colt Pit, my inexperience nearly
ended my life: for though I had a minute theoretical knowledge of all
British workings, I was, in my practical relation to them, like a man
who has learnt seamanship on shore. At this place the dead were
accumulated, I think beyond precedent, the dark plain around for at
least three miles being as strewn as a reaped field with stacks, and,
near the bank, much more strewn than stack-fields, filling the only
house within sight of the pit-mouth--the small place provided for the
company's officials--and even lying over the great mountain-heap of
wark, composed of the shale and _débris_ of the working. Here I arrived
on the morning of the 15th December, to find that, unlike the others,
there was here no rope-ladder or other contrivance fixed by the
fugitives in the ventilating-shaft, which, usually, is not very deep,
being also the pumping-shaft, containing a plug-rod at one end of the
beam-engine which works the pumps; but looking down the shaft, I
discerned a vague mass of clothes, and afterwards a thing that could
only be a rope-ladder, which a batch of the fugitives, by hanging to it
their united weight, must have dragged down upon themselves, to prevent
the descent of yet others. My only way of going down, therefore, was by
the pit-mouth, and as this was an important place, after some hesitation
I decided, very rashly. First I provided for my coming up again by
getting a great coil of half-inch rope, which I found in the bailiff's
office, probably 130 fathoms long, rope at most mines being so
plentiful, that it almost seemed as if each fugitive had provided
himself in that way. This length of rope I threw over the beam of the
beam-engine in the bite where it sustains the rod, and paid one end
down the shaft, till both were at the bottom: in this way I could come
up, by tying one rope-end to the rope-ladder, hoisting it, fastening the
other end below, and climbing the ladder; and I then set to work to
light the pit-mouth engine-fire to effect my descent. This done, I
started the engine, and brought up the cage from the bottom, the 300
yards of wire-rope winding with a quaint deliberateness round the drum,
reminding me of a camel's nonchalant leisurely obedience. When I saw the
four meeting chains of the cage-roof emerge, the pointed roof, and
two-sided frame, I stopped the ascent, and next attached to the
knock-off gear a long piece of twine which I had provided; carried the
other end to the cage, in which I had five companions; lit my
hat-candle, which was my test for choke-damp, and the Davy; and without
the least reflection, pulled the string. That hole was 900 feet deep.
First the cage gave a little up-leap, and then began to descend--quite
normally, I thought, though the candle at once went out--nor had I the
least fear; a strong current of air, indeed, blew up the shaft: but that
happens in shafts. _This_ current, however, soon became too vehemently
boisterous for anything: I saw the lamp-light struggle, the dead cheeks
quiver, I heard the cage-shoes go singing down the wire-rope guides,
and quicker we went, and quicker, that facile descent of Avernus,
slipping lightly, then raging, with sparks at the shoes and guides, and
a hurricane in my ears and eyes and mouth. When we bumped upon the
'dogs' at the bottom, I was tossed a foot upwards with the stern-faced
others, and then lay among them in the eight-foot space without
consciousness.

It was only when I sat, an hour later, disgustedly reflecting on this
incident, that I remembered that there was always some 'hand-working' of
the engine during the cage-descents, an engineman reversing the action
by a handle at every stroke of the piston, to prevent bumping. However,
the only permanent injury was to the lamp: and I found many others
inside.

I got out into the coal-hole, a large black hall 70 feet square by 15
high, the floor paved with iron sheets; there were some little holes
round the wall, dug for some purpose which I never could discover, some
waggons full of coal and shale standing about, and all among the
waggons, and on them, and under them, bodies, clothes. I got a new lamp,
pouring in my own oil, and went down a long steep ducky-road, very
rough, with numerous rollers, over which ran a rope to the pit-mouth
for drawing up the waggons; and in the sides here, at regular intervals,
man-holes, within which to rescue one's self from down-tearing waggons;
and within these man-holes, here and there, a dead, and in others every
sort of food, and at one place on the right a high dead heap, and the
air here hot at 64 or 65 degrees, and getting hotter with the descent.

The ducky led me down into a standing--a space with a turn-table--of
unusual size, which I made my base of operations for exploring. Here was
a very considerable number of punt-shaped putts on carriages, and also
waggons, such as took the new-mined coal from putt to pit-mouth; and
raying out from this open standing, several avenues, some ascending as
guggs, some descending as dipples, and the dead here all arranged in
groups, the heads of this group pointing up this gugg, of that group
toward that twin-way, of that other down that dipple, and the central
space, where weighing was done, almost empty: and the darksome silence
of this deep place, with all these multitudes, I found extremely
gravitating and hypnotic, drawing me, too, into their great Passion of
Silence in which they lay, all, all, so fixed and veteran; and at one
time I fell a-staring, nearer perhaps to death and the empty Gulf than
I knew; but I said I would be strong, and not sink into their habit of
stillness, but let them keep to their own way, and follow their own
fashion, and I would keep to my own way, and follow my own fashion, nor
yield to them, though I was but one against many; and I roused myself
with a shudder; and setting to work, caught hold of the drum-chain of a
long gugg, and planting my feet in the chogg-holes in which rested the
wheels of the putt-carriages that used to come roaring down the gugg, I
got up, stooping under a roof only three feet high, till I came, near
the end of the ascent, upon the scene of another battle: for in this
gugg about fifteen of the mine-hands had clubbed to wall themselves in,
and had done it, and I saw them lie there all by themselves through the
broken cement, with their bare feet, trousers, naked bodies all black,
visage all fierce and wild, the grime still streaked with sweat-furrows,
the candle in their rimless hats, and, outside, their own 'getting'
mattocks and boring-irons to besiege them. From the bottom of this gugg
I went along a very undulating twin-way, into which, every thirty yards
or so, opened one of those steep putt-ways which they called topples,
the twin-ways having plates of about 2-1/2 ft. gauge for the putts from
the headings, or workings, above to come down upon, full of coal and
shale: and all about here, in twin-way and topples, were ends and
corners, and not one had been left without its walling-in, and only one
was then intact, some, I fancied, having been broken open by their own
builders at the spur of suffocation, or hunger; and the one intact I
broke into with a mattock--it was only a thin cake of plaster, but
air-tight--and in a space not seven feet long behind it I found the very
ill-smelling corpse of a carting-boy, with guss and tugger at his feet,
and the pad which protected his head in pushing the putts, and a great
heap of loaves, sardines, and bottled beer against the walls, and five
or six mice that suddenly pitched screaming through the opening which I
made, greatly startling me, there being of dead mice an extraordinary
number in all this mine-region. I went back to the standing, and at one
point in the ground, where there was a windlass and chain, lowered
myself down a 'cut'--a small pit sunk perpendicularly to a lower
coal-stratum, and here, almost thinking I could hear the perpetual
rat-tat of notice once exchanged between the putt-boys below and the
windlass-boys above, I proceeded down a dipple to another place like a
standing, for in this mine there were six, or perhaps seven, veins: and
there immediately I came upon the acme of the horrible drama of this
Tartarus, for all here was not merely crowded, but, at some points, a
packed congestion of flesh, giving out a strong smell of the peach,
curiously mixed with the stale coal-odour of the pit, for here
ventilation must have been very limited; and a large number of these
masses had been shot down by only three hands, as I found: for through
three hermetical holes in a plaster-wall, built across a large gugg,
projected a little the muzzles of three rifles, which must have glutted
themselves with slaughter; and when, after a horror of disgust, having
swum as it were through a dead sea, I got to the wall, I peeped from a
small clear space before it through a hole, and made out a man, two
youths in their teens, two women, three girls, and piles of cartridges
and provisions; the hole had no doubt been broken from within at the
spur of suffocation, when the poison must have entered; and I
conjectured that here must be the mine-owner, director, manager, or
something of that sort, with his family. In another dipple-region, when
I had re-ascended to a higher level, I nearly fainted before I could
retire from the commencement of a region of after-damp, where there had
been an explosion, the bodies lying all hairless, devastated, and
grotesque. But I did not desist from searching every other quarter, no
momentary work, for not till near six did I go up by the pumping-shaft
rope-ladder.

       *       *       *       *       *

One day, standing in that wild region of bare rock and sea, called
Cornwall Point, whence one can see the crags and postillion wild rocks
where Land's End dashes out into the sea, and all the wild blue sea
between, and not a house in sight, save the chimney of some little
mill-like place peeping between the rocks inland--on that day I finished
what I may call my official search.

In going away from that place, walking northward, I came upon a lonely
house by the sea, a very beautiful house, made, it was clear, by an
artist, of the bungalow type, with an exquisitely sea-side expression. I
went to it, and found its special feature a spacious loggia or verandah,
sheltered by the overhanging upper story. Up to the first floor, the
exterior is of stone in rough-hewn blocks with a distinct batter, while
extra protection from weather is afforded by green slating above. The
roofs, of low pitch, are also covered with green slates, and a feeling
of strength and repose is heightened by the very long horizontal lines.
At one end of the loggia is a hexagonal turret, opening upon the loggia,
containing a study or nook. In front, the garden slopes down to the
sea, surrounded by an architectural sea-wall; and in this place I lived
three weeks. It was the house of the poet Machen, whose name, when I saw
it, I remembered very well, and he had married a very beautiful young
girl of eighteen, obviously Spanish, who lay on the bed in the large
bright bedroom to the right of the loggia, on her left exposed breast
being a baby with an india-rubber comforter in its mouth, both mother
and child wonderfully preserved, she still quite lovely, white brow
under low curves of black hair. The poet, strange to say, had not died
with them, but sat in the sitting-room behind the bedroom in a long
loose silky-grey jacket, at his desk--actually writing a poem! writing,
I could see, furiously fast, the place all littered with the written
leaves--at three o'clock in the morning, when, as I knew, the cloud
overtook this end of Cornwall, and stopped him, and put his head to rest
on the desk; and the poor little wife must have got sleepy, waiting for
it to come, perhaps sleepless for many long nights before, and gone to
bed, he perhaps promising to follow in a minute to die with her, but
bent upon finishing that poem, and writing feverishly on, running a race
with the cloud, thinking, no doubt, 'just two couplets more,' till the
thing came, and put his head to rest on the desk, poor carle: and I do
not know that I ever encountered aught so complimentary to my race as
this dead poet Machen, and his race with the cloud: for it is clear now
that the better kind of those poet men did not write to please the vague
inferior tribes who might read them, but to deliver themselves of the
divine warmth that thronged in their bosom; and if all the readers were
dead, still they would have written; and for God to read they wrote. At
any rate, I was so pleased with these poor people, that I stayed with
them three weeks, sleeping under blankets on a couch in the
drawing-room, a place full of lovely pictures and faded flowers, like
all the house: for I would not touch the young mother to remove her. And
finding on Machen's desk a big note-book with soft covers, dappled red
and yellow, not yet written in, I took it, and a pencil, and in the
little turret-nook wrote day after day for hours this account of what
has happened, nearly as far as it has now gone. And I think that I may
continue to write it, for I find in it a strange consolation, and
companionship.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Severn Valley, somewhere in the plain between Gloucester and
Cheltenham, in a rather lonely spot, I at that time travelling on a
tricycle-motor, I spied a curious erection, and went to it. I found it
of considerable size, perhaps fifty feet square, and thirty high, made
of pressed bricks, the perfectly flat roof, too, of brick, and not one
window, and only one door: this door, which I found open, was rimmed all
round its slanting rims with india-rubber, and when closed must have
been perfectly air-tight. Just inside I came upon fifteen English people
of the dressed class, except two, who were evidently bricklayers: six
ladies, and nine men: and at the further end, two more, men, who had
their throats cut; along one wall, from end to end were provisions; and
I saw a chest full of mixed potassic chlorate and black oxide of
manganese, with an apparatus for heating it, and producing oxygen--a
foolish thing, for additional oxygen could not alter the quantity of
breathed carbonic anhydride, which is a direct narcotic poison. Whether
the two with cut throats had sacrificed themselves for the others when
breathing difficulties commenced, or been killed by the others, was not
clear. When they could bear it no longer, they must have finally opened
the door, hoping that by then, after the passage of many days perhaps,
the outer air would be harmless, and so met their death. I believe that
this erection must have been run up by their own hands under the
direction of the two bricklayers, for they could not, I suppose, have
got workmen, except on the condition of the workmen's admission: on
which condition they would naturally employ as few as possible.

In general, I remarked that the rich must have been more urgent and
earnest in seeking escape than the others: for the poor realised only
the near and visible, lived in to-day, and cherished the always-false
notion that to-morrow would be just like to-day. In an out-patients'
waiting-room, for instance, in the Gloucester infirmary, I chanced to
see an astonishing thing: five bodies of poor old women in shawls, come
to have their ailments seen-to on the day of doom; and these, I
concluded, had been unable to realise that anything would really happen
to the daily old earth which they knew, and had walked with assurance
on: for if everybody was to die, they must have thought, who would
preach in the Cathedral on Sunday evenings?--so they could not have
believed. In an adjoining room sat an old doctor at a table, the
stethoscope-tips still clinging in his ears: a woman with bared chest
before him; and I thought to myself: 'Well, this old man, too, died
doing his work....'

In this same infirmary there was one surgical ward--for in a listless
mood I went over it--where the patients had died, not of the poison, nor
of suffocation, but of hunger: for the doctors, or someone, had made the
long room air-tight, double-boarding the windows, felting the doors, and
then locking them outside; they themselves may have perished before
their precautions for the imprisoned patients were complete: for I found
a heap of maimed shapes, mere skeletons, crowded round the door within.
I knew very well that they had not died of the cloud-poison, for the
pestilence of the ward was unmixed with that odour of peach which did
not fail to have more or less embalming effects upon the bodies which it
saturated. I rushed stifling from that place; and thinking it a pity,
and a danger, that such a horror should be, I at once set to work to
gather combustibles to burn the building to the ground.

It was while I sat in an arm-chair in the street the next afternoon,
smoking, and watching the flames of this structure, that something was
suddenly born in me, something from the lowest Hell: and I smiled a
smile that never yet man smiled. And I said: 'I will burn, I will burn:
I will return to London....'

       *       *       *       *       *

While I was on this Eastward journey, stopping for the night at the
town of Swindon, I had a dream: for I dreamed that a little brown bald
old man, with a bent back, whose beard ran in one thin streamlet of
silver from his chin to trail along the ground, said to me: 'You think
that you are alone on the earth, its sole Despot: well, have your fling:
but as sure as God lives, as God lives, as God lives'--he repeated it
six times--'sooner or later, later or sooner, you will meet another....'

And I started from that frightful sleep with the brow of a corpse, wet
with sweat....

       *       *       *       *       *

I returned to London on the 29th of March, arriving within a hundred
yards of the Northern Station one windy dark evening about eight, where
I alighted, and walked to Euston Road, then eastward along it, till I
came to a shop which I knew to be a jeweller's, though it was too dark
to see any painted words. The door, to my annoyance, was locked, like
nearly all the shop-doors in London: I therefore went looking near the
ground, and into a cart, for something heavy, very soon saw a labourer's
ponderous boots, cut one from the shrivelled foot, and set to beat at
the glass till it came raining; then knocked away the bottom splinters,
and entered.

No horrors now at that clatter of broken glass; no sick qualms; my
pulse steady; my head high; my step royal; my eye cold and calm.

       *       *       *       *       *

Eight months previously, I had left London a poor burdened, cowering
wight. I could scream with laughter now at that folly! But it did not
last long. I returned to it--the Sultan.

       *       *       *       *       *

No private palace being near, I was going to that great hotel in
Bloomsbury: but though I knew that numbers of candle-sticks would be
there, I was not sure that I should find sufficient: for I had acquired
the habit within the past few months of sleeping with at least sixty
lighted about me, and their form, pattern, style, age, and material was
of no small importance I selected ten from the broken shop, eight gold
and silver, and two of old ecclesiastical brass, and having made a
bundle, went out, found a bicycle at the Metropolitan Station, pumped
it, tied my bundle to the handle-bar, and set off riding. But since I
was too lazy to walk, I should certainly have procured some other means
of travelling, for I had not gone ten jolted and creaking yards, when
something went snap--it was a front fork--and I found myself half on
the ground, and half across the bare knees of a Highland soldier. I flew
with a shower of kicks upon the foolish thing: but that booted nothing;
and this was my last attempt in that way in London, the streets being in
an unsuitable condition.

All that dismal night it blew great guns: and during nearly three weeks,
till London was no more, there was a storm, with hardly a lull, that
seemed to behowl her destruction.

       *       *       *       *       *

I slept in a room on the second-floor of a Bloomsbury hotel that night;
and waking the next day at ten, ate with accursed shiverings in the cold
banqueting-room; went out then, and under drear low skies walked a long
way to the West district, accompanied all the time by a sound of
flapping flags--fluttering robes and rags--and grotesquely grim glimpses
of decay. It was pretty cold, and though I was warmly clad, the base
_bizarrerie_ of the European clothes which I wore had become a perpetual
offence and mockery in my eyes: at the first moment, therefore, I set
out whither I knew that I should find such clothes as a man might wear:
to the Turkish Embassy in Bryanston Square.

I found it open, and all the house, like most other houses, almost
carpeted with dead forms. I had been acquainted with Redouza Pasha, and
cast an eye about for him amid that invasion of veiled hanums,
fierce-looking Caucasians in skins of beasts, a Sheik-ul-Islam in green
cloak, a khalifa, three emirs in cashmere turbans, two tziganes, their
gaudy brown mortality more glaringly abominable than even the Western's.
I could recognise no Redouza here: but the stair was fairly clear, and I
soon came to one of those boudoirs which sweetly recall the deep-buried
inner seclusion and dim sanctity of the Eastern home: a door encrusted
with mother-of-pearl, sculptured ceiling, candles clustered in tulips
and roses of opal, a brazen brasero, and, all in disarray, the silken
chemise, the long winter-cafetan doubled with furs, costly cabinets,
sachets of aromas, babooshes, stuffs of silk. When, after two hours, I
went from the house, I was bathed, anointed, combed, scented, and robed.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have said to myself: 'I will ravage and riot in my Kingdoms. I will
rage like the Caesars, and be a withering blight where I pass like
Sennacherib, and wallow in soft delights like Sardanapalus. I will build
me a palace, vast as a city, in which to strut and parade my Monarchy
before the Heavens, with stones of pure molten gold, and rough
frontispiece of diamond, and cupola of amethyst, and pillars of pearl.
For there were many men to the eye: but there was One only, really: and
I was he. And always I knew it:--some faintest secret whisper which
whispered me: "_You_ are the Arch-one, the _motif_ of the world, Adam,
and the rest of men not much." And they are gone--all! all!--as no doubt
they deserved: and I, as was meet, remain. And there are wines, and
opiums, and haschish; and there are oils, and spices, fruits and
bivalves, and soft-breathing Cyclades, and scarlet luxurious Orients. I
will be restless and turbulent in my territories: and again, I will be
languishing and fond. I will say to my soul: "Be Full."'

       *       *       *       *       *

I watch my mind, as in the old days I would watch a new precipitate in a
test-tube, to see into what sediment it would settle.

I am very averse to trouble of any sort, so that the necessity for the
simplest manual operations will rouse me to indignation: but if a thing
will contribute largely to my ever-growing voluptuousness, I will
undergo a considerable amount of labour to accomplish it, though
without steady effort, being liable to side-winds and whims, and
purposeless relaxations.

In the country I became very irritable at the need which confronted me
of occasionally cooking some green vegetable--the only item of food
which it was necessary to take some trouble over: for all meats, and
many fish, some quite delicious, I find already prepared in forms which
will remain good probably a century after my death, should I ever die.
In Gloucester, however, I found peas, asparagus, olives, and other
greens, already prepared to be eaten without base cares: and these, I
now see, exist everywhere in stores so vast comparatively to the needs
of a single man, that they may be called infinite. Everything, in fact,
is infinite compared with my needs. I take my meals, therefore, without
more trouble than a man who had to carve his joint, or chicken: though
even that little I sometimes find most irksome. There remains the
detestable degradation of lighting fires for warmth, which I have
occasionally to do: for the fire at the hotel invariably goes out while
I sleep. But that is an inconvenience of this vile northern island only,
to which I shall soon bid eternal glad farewells.

During the afternoon of my second day in London, I sought out a strong
petrol motor in Holborn, overhauled and oiled it a little, and set off
over Blackfriars Bridge, making for Woolwich through that other more
putrid London on the south river-side. One after the other, I connected,
as I came upon them, two drays, a cab, and a private carriage, to my
motor in line behind, having cut away the withered horses, and using the
reins, chain-harness, &c., as impromptu couplings. And with this novel
train, I rumbled eastward.

Half-way I happened to look at my old silver chronometer of
_Boreal_-days, which I have kept carefully wound--and how I can be still
thrown into these sudden frantic agitations by a nothing, a nothing, my
good God! I do not know. This time it was only the simple fact that the
hands chanced to point to 3.10 P.M., the precise moment at which all the
clocks of London had stopped--for each town has its thousand weird
fore-fingers, pointing, pointing still, to the moment of doom. In London
it was 3.10 on a Sunday afternoon. I first noticed it going up the river
on the face of the 'Big Ben' of the Parliament-house, and I now find
that they all, all, have this 3.10 mania, time-keepers still, but
keepers of the end of Time, fixedly noting for ever and ever that one
moment. The cloud-mass of fine penetrating _scoriae_ must have instantly
stopped their works, and they had fallen silent with man. But in their
insistence upon this particular minute I had found something so
hideously solemn, yet mock-solemn, personal, and as it were addressed to
_me_, that when my own watch dared to point to the same moment, I was
thrown into one of those sudden, paroxysmal, panting turmoils of mind,
half rage, half horror, which have hardly once visited me since I left
the _Boreal_. On the morrow, alas, another awaited me; and again on the
second morrow after.

       *       *       *       *       *

My train was execrably slow, and not until after five did I arrive at
the entrance-gates of the Woolwich Royal Arsenal; and seeing that it was
too late to work, I uncoupled the motor, and leaving the others there,
turned back; but overtaken by lassitude, I procured candles, stopped at
the Greenwich Observatory, and in that old dark pile, remained for the
night, listening to a furious storm. But, a-stir by eight the next
morning, I got back by ten to the Arsenal, and proceeded to analyse that
vast and multiple entity. Many parts of it seemed to have been abandoned
in undisciplined haste, and in the Cap Factory, which I first entered, I
found tools by which to effect entry into any desired part. My first
search was for time-fuses of good type, of which I needed two or three
thousand, and after a wearily long time found a great number
symmetrically arranged in rows in a range of buildings called the
Ordnance Store Department. I then descended, walked back to the wharf,
brought up my train, and began to lower the fuses in bag-fulls by ropes
through a shoot, letting go each rope as the fuses reached the cart.
However, on winding one fuse, I found that the mechanism would not go,
choked with scoriae; and I had to resign myself to the task of opening
and dusting every one: a wretched labour in which I spent that day, like
a workman. But about four I threw them to the devil, having done two
hundred odd, and then hummed back in the motor to London.

       *       *       *       *       *

That same evening at six I paid, for the first time, a visit to my old
self in Harley Street. It was getting dark, and a bleak storm that
hooted like whooping-cough swept the world. At once I saw that even _I_
had been invaded: for my door swung open, banging, a lowered catch
preventing it from slamming; in the passage the car-lamp shewed me a
young man who seemed a Jew, sitting as if in sleep with dropped head, a
back-tilted silk-hat pressed down upon his head to the ears; and lying
on face, or back, or side, six more, one a girl with Arlesienne
head-dress, one a negress, one a Deal lifeboat's-man, and three of
uncertain race; the first room--the waiting-room--is much more
numerously occupied, though there still, on the table, lies the volume
of _Punch_, the _Gentlewoman_, and the book of London views in
heliograph. Behind this, descending two steps, is the study and
consulting-room, and there, as ever, the revolving-cover oak
writing-desk: but on my little shabby-red sofa, a large lady much too
big for it, in shimmering brown silk, round her left wrist a _trousseau_
of massive gold trinkets, her head dropped right back, almost severed by
an infernal gash from the throat. Here were two old silver
candle-sticks, which I lit, and went upstairs: in the drawing-room sat
my old house-keeper, placidly dead in a rocking-chair, her left hand
pressing down a batch of the open piano-keys, among many strangers. But
she was very good: she had locked my bedroom against intrusion; and as
the door stands across a corner behind a green-baize curtain, it had not
been seen, or, at least, not forced. I did not know where the key might
be, but a few thumps with my back drove it open: and there lay my bed
intact, and everything tidy. This was a strange coming-back to it, Adam.

But what intensely interested me in that room was a big thing standing
at the maroon-and-gold wall between wardrobe and dressing-table--that
gilt frame--and that man painted within it there. It was myself in oils,
done by--I forget his name now: a towering celebrity he was, and rather
a close friend of mine at one time. In a studio in St. John's Wood, I
remember, he did it; and many people said that it was quite a great work
of art. I suppose I was standing before it quite thirty minutes that
night, holding up the bits of candle, lost in wonder, in amused contempt
at that thing there. It is I, certainly: that I must admit. There is the
high-curving brow--really a King's brow, after all, it strikes me
now--and that vacillating look about the eyes and mouth which used to
make my sister Ada say: 'Adam is weak and luxurious.' Yes, that is
wonderfully done, the eyes, that dear, vacillating look of mine; for
although it is rather a staring look, yet one can almost see the dark
pupils stir from side to side: very well done. And there is the longish
face; and the rather thin, stuck-out moustache, shewing both lips which
pout a bit; and there is the nearly black hair; and there is the rather
visible paunch; and there is, oh good Heaven, the neat pink cravat--ah,
it must have been _that--the cravat_--that made me burst out into
laughter so loud, mocking, and uncontrollable the moment my eye rested
there! 'Adam Jeffson,' I muttered reproachfully when it was over, 'could
that poor thing in the frame have been you?'

I cannot quite state why the tendency toward Orientalism--Oriental
dress--all the manner of an Oriental monarch--has taken full possession
of me: but so it is: for surely I am hardly any longer a Western,
'modern' mind, but a primitive and Eastern one. Certainly, that cravat
in the frame has receded a million, million leagues, ten thousand
forgotten aeons, from me! Whether this is a result due to my own
personality, of old acquainted with Eastern notions, or whether,
perhaps, it is the natural accident to any mind wholly freed from
trammels, I do not know. But I seem to have gone right back to the very
beginnings, and resemblance with man in his first, simple, gaudy
conditions. My hair, as I sit here writing, already hangs a black, oiled
string down my back; my scented beard sweeps in two opening whisks to my
ribs; I have on the _izar_, a pair of drawers of yomani cloth like
cotton, but with yellow stripes; over this a soft shirt, or quamis, of
white silk, reaching to my calves; over this a short vest of
gold-embroidered crimson, the _sudeyree_; over this a khaftan of
green-striped silk, reaching to the ankles, with wide, long sleeves
divided at the wrist, and bound at the waist with a voluminous gaudy
shawl of Cashmere for girdle; over this a warm wide-flowing torrent of
white drapery, lined with ermine. On my head is the skull-cap, covered
by a high crimson cap with deep-blue tassel; and on my feet is a pair of
thin yellow-morocco shoes, covered over with thick red-morocco
babooshes. My ankles--my ten fingers--my wrists--are heavy with gold and
silver ornaments; and in my ears, which, with considerable pain, I bored
three days since, are two needle-splinters, to prepare the holes for
rings.

       *       *       *       *       *

O Liberty! I am free....

       *       *       *       *       *

While I was going to visit my old home in Harley Street that night, at
the very moment when I turned from Oxford Street into Cavendish Square,
this thought, fiercely hissed into my ears, was all of a sudden seething
in me: 'If now I should lift my eyes, and see a man walking yonder--just
yonder--_at the corner there_--turning from Harewood Place into Oxford
Street--what, my good God, should I do?--I without even a knife to run
and plunge into his heart?'

And I turned my eyes--ogling, suspicious eyes of furtive
horror--reluctantly, lingeringly turned--and I peered deeply with
lowered brows across the murky winds at that same spot: but no man was
there.

Hideously frequent is this nonsense now become with me--in streets of
towns--in deep nooks of the country: the invincible assurance that, if I
but turn the head, and glance _there_--at a certain fixed spot--I shall
surely see--I _must_ see--a man. And glance I must, glance I must,
though I perish: and when I glance, though my hairs creep and stiffen
like stirring amobse, yet in my eyes, I know, is monarch indignation
against the intruder, and my neck stands stiff as sovereignty itself,
and on my brow sits more than all the lordship of Persepolis and Iraz.

To what point of wantonness this arrogance of royalty may lead me, I do
not know: I will watch, and see. It is written: 'It is not good for man
to be alone!' But good or no, the arrangement of One planet, One
inhabitant, already seems to me, not merely a natural and proper, but
the _only_ natural and proper, condition; so much so, that any other
arrangement has now, to my mind, a certain improbable, wild, and
far-fetched unreality, like the Utopian schemes of dreamers and
faddists. That the whole world should have been made for _me_
alone--that London should have been built only in order that _I_ might
enjoy the vast heroic spectacle of its burning--that all history, and
all civilisation should have existed only in order to accumulate for
_my_ pleasures its inventions and facilities, its stores of purple and
wine, of spices and gold--no more extraordinary does it all seem to me
than to some little unreflecting Duke of my former days seemed the
possessing of lands which his remote forefathers seized, and slew the
occupiers: nor, in reality, is it even so extraordinary, I being alone.
But what sometimes strikes me with some surprise is, not that the
present condition of the world, with one sole master, should seem the
common-place and natural condition, but that it should have come to seem
_so_ common-place and natural--in nine months. The mind of Adam Jeffson
is adaptable.

       *       *       *       *       *

I sat a long time thinking such things by my bed that night, till
finally I was disposed to sleep there. But I had no considerable number
of candle-sticks, nor was even sure of candles. I remembered, however,
that Peter Peters, three doors away on the other side of the street,
had had four handsome silver candelabra in his drawing-room, each
containing six stems; and I said to myself: 'I will search for candles
in the kitchen, and if I find any, I will go and get Peter Peters'
candelabra, and sleep here.'

I took then the two lights which I had, my good God; went down to the
passage; then down to the basement; and there had no difficulty in
finding three packets of large candles, the fact being, I suppose, that
the cessation of gas-lighting had compelled everyone to provide
themselves in this way, for there were a great many wherever I looked.
With these I re-ascended, went into a little alcove on the second-floor
where I had kept some drugs, got a bottle of carbolic oil, and for ten
minutes went dashing all the corpses in the house. I then left the two
lighted bits of candle on the waiting-room table, and, with the
car-lamp, passed along the passage to the front-door, which was very
violently banging. I stepped out to find that the storm had increased to
a mighty turbulence (though it was dry), which at once caught my
clothes, and whirled them into a flapping cloud about and above me;
also, I had not crossed the street when my lamp was out. I persisted,
however, half blinded, to Peters door. It was locked: but immediately
near the pavement was a window, the lower sash up, into which, with
little trouble, I lifted myself and passed. My foot, as I lowered it,
stood on a body: and this made me angry and restless. I hissed a curse,
and passed on, scraping the carpet with my soles, that I might hurt no
one: for I did not wish to hurt any one. Even in the almost darkness of
the room I recognised Peters' furniture, as I expected: for the house
was his on a long lease, and I knew that his mother had had the
intention to occupy it after his death. But as I passed into the
passage, all was mere blank darkness, and I, depending upon the lamp,
had left the matches in the other house. I groped my way to the stairs,
and had my foot on the first step, when I was stopped by a vicious
shaking of the front-door, which someone seemed to be at with hustlings
and the most urgent poundings: I stood with peering stern brows two or
three minutes, for I knew that if I once yielded to the flinching at my
heart, no mercy would be shown me in this house of tragedy, and
thrilling shrieks would of themselves arise and ring through its haunted
chambers. The rattling continued an inordinate time, and so instant and
imperative, that it seemed as if it could not fail to force the door.
But, though horrified, I whispered to my heart that it could only be the
storm which was struggling at it like the grasp of a man, and after a
time went on, feeling my way by the broad rail, in my brain somehow the
thought of a dream which I had had in the _Boreal_ of the woman Clodagh,
how she let drop a fluid like pomegranate-seeds into water, and tendered
it to Peter Peters: and it was a mortal purging draught; but I would not
stop, but step by step went up, though I suffered very much, my brows
peering at the utter darkness, and my heart shocked at its own rashness.
I got to the first landing, and as I turned to ascend the second part of
the stair, my left hand touched something icily cold: I made some quick
instinctive movement of terror, and, doing so, my foot struck against
something, and I stumbled, half falling over what seemed a small table
there. Immediately a horrible row followed, for something fell to the
ground: and at that instant, ah, I heard something--a voice--a human
voice, which uttered words close to my ear--the voice of Clodagh, for I
knew it: yet not the voice of Clodagh in the flesh, but her voice
clogged with clay and worms, and full of effort, and thick-tongued: and
in that ghastly speech of the grave I distinctly heard the words:

'_Things being as they are in the matter of the death of Peter ..._'

And there it stopped dead, leaving me so sick, my God, so sick, that I
could hardly snatch my robes about me to fly, fly, fly, soft-footed,
murmuring in pain, down the steps, down like a sneaking thief, but
quick, snatching myself away, then wrestling with the cruel catch of the
door which she would not let me open, feeling her all the time behind
me, watching me. And when I did get out, I was away up the length of the
street, trailing my long _jubbah_, glancing backward, panting, for I
thought that she might dare to follow, with her daring evil will. And
all that night I lay on a common bench in the wind-tossed and dismal
Park.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first thing which I did when the sun was up was to return to that
place: and I returned with hard and masterful brow.

Approaching Peters' house I saw now, what the darkness had hidden from
me, that on his balcony was someone--quite alone there. The balcony is a
slight open-work wrought-iron structure, connected to a small roof by
three slender voluted pillars, two at the ends, one in the middle: and
at the middle one I saw someone, a woman--kneeling--her arms clasped
tight about the pillar, and her face rather upward-looking. Never did I
see aught more horrid: there were the gracious curves of the woman's
bust and hips still well preserved in a clinging dress of red cloth,
very faded now; and her reddish hair floated loose in a large flimsy
cloud about her; but her face, in that exposed position, had been quite
eaten away by the winds to a noseless skeleton, which grinned from ear
to ear, with slightly-dropped under-jaw--most horrid in contrast with
the body, and frame of hair. I meditated upon her a long time that
morning from the opposite pavement. An oval locket at her throat
contained, I knew, my likeness: for eight years previously I had given
it her. It was Clodagh, the poisoner.

I thought that I would go into that house, and walk through it from top
to bottom, and sit in it, and spit in it, and stamp in it, in spite of
any one: for the sun was now high. I accordingly went in again, and up
the stairs to the spot where I had been frightened, and had heard the
words. And here a great rage took me, for I at once saw that I had been
made the dupe of the malign wills that beset me, and the laughing-stock
of Those for whom I care not a fig. From a little mahogany table there I
had knocked sideways to the ground, in my stumble, a small phonograph
with a great 25-inch japanned-tin horn, which, the moment that I now
noticed it, I took and flung with a great racket down the stairs: for
that this it was which had addressed me I did not doubt; it being indeed
evident that its clock-work mechanism had been stopped by the volcanic
scoriae in the midst of the delivery of a record, but had been started
into a few fresh oscillations by the shock of the fall, making it utter
those thirteen words, and stop. I was sufficiently indignant at the
moment, but have since been glad, for I was thereby put upon the notion
of collecting a number of cylinders with records, and have been touched
with indescribable sensations, sometimes thrilled, at hearing the
silence of this Eternity broken by those singing and speaking voices, so
life-like, yet most ghostly, of the old dead.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, the most of that same day I spent in a high chamber at Woolwich,
dusting out, and sometimes oiling, time-fuses: a work in which I
acquired such facility in some hours, that each finally occupied me no
more than ninety to a hundred seconds, so that by evening I had, with
the previous day's work, close on 600. The construction of these little
things is very simple, and, I believe, effective, so that I should have
no difficulty in making them myself in large numbers, if it were
necessary. Most contain a tiny dry battery, which sends a current along
a bell or copper wire at the running-down moment, the clocks being
contrived to be set for so many days, hours, and minutes, while others
ignite by striking. I arranged in rows in the covered van those which I
had prepared, and passed the night in an inn near the Barracks. I had
brought candle-sticks from London in the morning, and arranged the
furniture--a settee, chest-of-drawers, basin-stand, table, and a number
of chairs--in three-quarter-circle round the bed, so getting a
triple-row altar of lights, mixed with vases of the house containing
small palms and evergreens; with this I mingled a smell of ambergris
from the scattered contents of some Turkish sachets which I had; in the
bed a bottle of sweet Chypre-wine, with _bonbons_, nuts, and Havannas.
As I lay me down, I could not but reflect, with a smile which I knew to
be evil, upon that steady, strong, smouldering lust within me which was
urging me through all those pains at the Arsenal, I who shirked every
labour as unkingly. So, however, it was: and the next morning I was at
it again after an early breakfast, my fingers at first quite stiff with
cold, for it blew a keen and January gale. By nine I had 820 fuses; and
judging those sufficient to commence with, got into the motor, and took
it round to a place called the East Laboratory, a series of detached
buildings, where I knew that I should find whatever I wanted: and I
prepared my mind for a day's labour. In this place I found incredible
stores: mountains of percussion-caps, more chambers of fuses, small-arm
cartridges, shells, and all those murderous explosive mixtures, a-making
and made, with which modern savagery occupied its leisure in
exterminating itself: or, at least, savagery civilised in its top-story
only: for civilisation was apparently from the head downwards, and never
once grew below the neck in all those centuries, those people being
certainly much more mental than cordial, though I doubt if they were
genuinely mental either--reminding one rather of that composite image of
Nebuchadnezzar, head of gold, breast brazen, feet of clay--head
man-like, heart cannibal, feet bestial--like aegipeds, and mermaids, and
puzzling undeveloped births. However, it is of no importance: and
perhaps I am not much better than the rest, for I, too, after all, am of
them. At any rate, their lyddites, melanites, cordites, dynamites,
powders, jellies, oils, marls, and civilised barbarisms and obiahs, came
in very well for their own destruction: for by two o'clock I had so
worked, that I had on the first cart the phalanx of fuses; on the
second a goodly number of kegs, cartridge-cases and cartridge-boxes,
full of powder, explosive cottons and gelatines, and liquid
nitro-glycerine, and earthy dynamite, with some bombs, two reels of
cordite, two pieces of tarred cloth, a small iron ladle, a shovel, and a
crow-bar; the cab came next, containing a considerable quantity of loose
coal; and lastly, in the private carriage lay four big cans of common
oil. And first, in the Laboratory, I connected a fuse-conductor with a
huge tun of blasting-gelatine, and I set the fuse on the ground, timed
for the midnight of the twelfth day thence; and after that I visited the
Main Factory, the Carriage Department, the Ordnance Store Department,
the Royal Artillery Barracks, and the Powder Magazines in the Marshes,
traversing, as it seemed to me, miles of building; and in some I laid
heaps of oil-saturated coal with an explosive in suitable spots on the
ground-floor near wood-work, and in some an explosive alone: and all I
timed for ignition at midnight of the twelfth day. Hot now, and black as
ink, I proceeded through the town, stopping with perfect system at every
hundredth door: and I laid the faggots of a great burning: and timed
them all for ignition at midnight of the twelfth day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Whatever door I found closed against me I drove at it with a maniac
malice.

       *       *       *       *       *

Shall I commit the whole dark fact to paper?--that deep, deep secret of
the human organism?

As I wrought, I waxed wicked as a demon! And with lowered neck, and
forward curve of the lower spine, and the blasphemous strut of tragic
play-actors, I went. For here was no harmless burning which I did--but
the crime of arson; and a most fiendish, though vague, malevolence, and
the rage to burn and raven and riot, was upon me like a dog-madness, and
all the mood of Nero, and Nebuchadnezzar: and from my mouth proceeded
all the obscenities of the slum and of the gutter, and I sent up such
hisses and giggles of challenge to Heaven that day as never yet has man
let out. But this way lies a spinning frenzy....

       *       *       *       *       *

I have taken a dead girl with wild huggings to my bosom; and I have
touched the corrupted lip, and spat upon her face, and tossed her down,
and crushed her teeth with my heel, and jumped and jumped upon her
breast, like the snake-stamping zebra, mad, mad...!

       *       *       *       *       *

I was desolated, however, that first day of the faggot-laying, even in
the midst of my sense of omnipotence, by one thing, which made me give
some kicks to the motor: for it was only crawling, so that a good part
of the way I was stalking by its side; and when I came to that hill near
the Old Dover Road, the whole thing stopped, and refused to move, the
weight of the train being too great for my horse-power traction. I did
not know what to do, and stood there in angry impotence a full
half-hour, for the notion of setting up an electric station, with or
without automatic stoking-gear, presented so hideous a picture of labour
to me, that I would not entertain it. After a time, however, I thought
that I remembered that there was a comparatively new power station in
St. Paneras driven by turbines: and at once, I uncoupled the motor,
covered the drays with the tarpaulins, and went driving at singing
speed, choosing the emptier by-streets, and not caring whom I crushed.
After some trouble I found, in fact, the station in an obscure by-street
made of two long walls, and went in by a window, a rage upon me to have
my will quickly accomplished. I ran up some stairs, across two rooms,
into a gallery containing a switch-board, and in the room below saw the
works, all very neat-looking, but, as I soon found, very dusty. I went
down, and fixed upon a generating set--there were three--that would give
a decent load, and then saw that the switch-gear belonging to this
particular generator was in order. I then got some cloths and thoroughly
cleaned the dust off the commutators; ran next--for I was in a strange
fierce haste--and turned the water into the turbines, and away went the
engine; I hurried to set the lubricators running on the bearings, and in
a couple of minutes had adjusted the speed, and the brushes of the
generators, and switched the current on to the line. By this time,
however, I saw that it was getting dark, and feared that little could be
done that day; still, I hurried out, the station still running, got into
the car, and was off to look for a good electric one, of which there are
hosts in the streets, in order at least to clean up and adjust the motor
that night. I drove down three by-streets, till I turned into Euston
Road: but I had no sooner reached it than I pulled up--with sudden
jerk--with a shout of astonishment.

That cursed street was all lighted up and gay! and three shimmering
electric globes, not far apart, illuminated every feature of a ghastly
battle-field of dead.

And there was a thing there, the grinning impression of which I shall
carry to my grave: a thing which spelled and spelled at me, and ceased,
and began again, and ceased, and spelled at me. For, above a shop which
faced me was a flag, a red flag with white letters, fluttering on the
gale the words: 'Metcalfe's Stores'; and beneath the flag, stretched
right across the house, was the thing which spelled, letter by letter,
in letters of light: and it spelled two words, deliberately, coming to
the end, and going back to recommence:

  _Drink_
  ROBORAL.

And that was the last word of civilised Man to me, Adam Jeffson--its
final counsel--its ultimate gospel and message--to _me_, my good God!
_Drink Roboral!_

I was put into such a passion of rage by this blatant ribaldry, which
affected me like the laughter of a skeleton, that I rushed from the car,
with the intention, I believe, of seeking stones to stone it: but no
stones were there: and I had to stand impotently enduring that rape of
my eyes, its victoriously-dogged iteration, its taunting leer, its
Drink Roboral--D, R, I, N, K R, O, B, O, R, A, L.

It was one of those electrical spelling-advertisements, worked by a
small motor commutator driven by a works-motor, and I had now set it
going: for on some night before that Sabbath of doom the chemist must
have set it to work, but finding the works abandoned, had not troubled
to shut it down again. At any rate, this thing stopped my work for that
day, for when I went to shut down the works it was night; and I drove to
the place which I had made my home in sullen and weary mood: for I knew
that Roboral would not cure the least of all my sores.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning I awoke in quite another frame of mind, disposed to
idle, and let things go. After rising, dressing, washing in cold diluted
rose-water, and descending to the _salle-à-manger_, where I had laid my
morning-meal the previous evening, I promenaded an hour the only one of
these long sombrous tufted corridors in which there were not more than
two dead, though behind the doors on either hand, all of which I had
locked, I knew that they lay in plenty. When I was warmed, I again went
down, looked into my motor, got three cylinders from one of a number of
motors standing near, lit up, and drove away--to Woolwich, as I thought
at first: but instead of crossing the river by Blackfriars, I went more
eastward; and having passed from Holborn into Cheapside, which was
impassable, unless I crawled, was about to turn, when I noticed a
phonograph-shop: into this I got by a side-door, suddenly seized by
quite a curiosity to hear what I might hear. I took a good one with
microphone diaphragm, and a number of record-cylinders in a
brass-handled box, and I put them into the car, for there was still a
very strong peach-odour in this closed shop, which displeased me. I then
proceeded southward and westward through by-streets, seeking some
probable house into which to go from the rough cold winds, when I saw
the Parliament-house, and thither, turning river-ward by Westminster
Hall to Palace Yard, I went, and with my two parcels, one weighting each
arm, walked into this old place along a line of purple-dusted busts; I
deposited my boxes on a table beside a massive brass thing lying there,
which, I suppose, must be what they called the Mace; and I sat to hear.

Unfortunately, the phonograph was a clock-work one, and when I wound it,
it would not go: so that I got very angry at my absurdity in not
bringing an electric mechanism, as I could with much less trouble have
put in a chemical than cleaned the clock-work; and this thing put me
into such a rage, that I nearly tore it to pieces, and was half for
kicking it: but there was a man sitting in an old straight-backed chair
quite near me, which they called the Speaker's Chair, who was in such a
pose, that he had, every time I glanced suddenly at him, precisely the
air of bending forward with interest to watch what I was doing, a
Mohrgrabim kind of man, almost black, with Jewish nose, crinkled hair,
keffie, and flowing robe, probably, I should say, an Abyssinian Galla;
with him were only five or six people about the benches, mostly leaning
forward with rested head, so that this place had quite a void
sequestered mood. At all events, this Galla, or Bedouin, with his
grotesque interest in my doings, restrained my hands: and, finally, by
dint of peering, poking, dusting, and adjusting, in an hour's time I got
the phonograph to go very well.

And all that morning, and far into late afternoon, forgetful of food,
and of the cold which gradually possessed me, I sat there listening,
musing--cylinder after cylinder: frivolous songs, orchestras, voices of
famous men whom I had spoken with, and shaken their solid hands,
speaking again to me, but thick-tongued, with hoarse effort and
gurgles, from out the vague void beyond the grave: most strange, most
strange. And the third cylinder that I put on, ah, I knew, with a
fearful start, that voice of thunder, I knew it well: it was the
preacher, Mackay's; and many, many times over I heard those words of his
that day, originally spoken, it seems, when the cloud had just passed
the longitude of Vienna; and in all that torrent of speech not one
single word of 'I told you so': but he cries:

'...praise Him, O Earth, for He is He: and if He slay me, I will laugh
raillery at His Sword, and banter Him to His face: for His Sword is
sharp Mercy, and His poisons kill my death. Fear not, therefore, little
flock of Man! but take my comfort to your heart to-night, and my sweets
to your tongue: for though ye have sinned, and hardened yourselves as
brass, and gone far, far astray in these latter wildernesses, yet He is
infinitely greater than your sin, and will lead you back. Break not,
break not, poor broken heart of Earth: for from Him I run herald to thee
this night with the sweet and secret message, that of old He chose thee,
and once mixed conjugally with thee in an ancient sleep, O Afflicted:
and He is thou, and thou art He, flesh of His flesh, and bone of His
bone; and if thou perish utterly, it is that He has perished utterly,
too: for thou art He. Hope, therefore, most, and cheeriest smile, at
the very apsis and black nadir of Despair: for He is nimble as a weasel,
and He twists like Proteus, and His solstices and equinoxes, His tropics
and turning-points and recurrences are innate in Being, and when He
falls He falls like harlequin and shuttlecocks, shivering plumb to His
feet, and each third day, lo, He is risen again, and His defeats are but
the stepping-stones and rough scaffolding from which He builds His
Parthenons, and from the densest basalt gush His rills, and the last end
of this Earth shall be no poison-cloud, I say to you, but Carnival and
Harvest-home ... though ye have sinned, poor hearts ...'

       *       *       *       *       *

So Mackay, with thick-tongued metallic effort. I found this brown room
of the Commons-house, with its green benches, and grilled galleries, so
agreeable to my mood, that I went again the next morning, and listened
to more records, till they tired me: for what I had was a prurient itch
to hear secret scandals, and revelations of the festering heart, but
these cylinders, gathered from a shop, divulged nothing. I then went out
to make for Woolwich, but in the car saw the poet's note-book in which I
had written: and I took it, went back, and was writing an hour, till I
was tired of that, too; and judging it too late for Woolwich that day,
wandered about the dusty committee-rooms and recesses of this
considerable place. In one room another foolishness suddenly seized upon
me, shewing how my slightest whim has become more imperious within me
than all the Jaws of the Medes and Persians: for in that room, Committee
Room No. 15, I found an apparently young policeman lying flat on his
back, who pleased me: his helmet tilted under his head, and near one
white-gloved hand a blue official envelope; the air of that stagnant
quiet room was still perceptibly peach-scented, and he gave not the
slightest odour that I could detect, though he had been corporal and
stalwart, his face now the colour of dark ashes, in each hollow cheek a
ragged hole about the size of a sixpence, the flimsy vaulted eye-lids
well embedded in their caverns, from under whose fringe of eye-lash
seemed whispered the word: '_Eternity._' His hair seemed very long for a
policeman, or perhaps it had grown since death; but what interested me
about him, was the envelope at his hand: for 'what,' I asked myself,
'was this fellow doing here with an envelope at three o'clock on a
Sunday afternoon?' This made me look closer, and then I saw by a mark at
the left temple that he had been shot, or felled; whereupon I was
thrown into quite a great rage, for I thought that this poor man was
killed in the execution of his duty, when many of his kind perhaps, and
many higher than he, had fled their post to pray or riot. So, after
looking at him a long time, I said to him: 'Well, D. 47, you sleep very
well: and you did well, dying so: I am pleased with you, and to mark my
favour, I decree that you shall neither rot in the common air, nor burn
in the common flames: for by my own hand shall you be distinguished with
burial.' And this wind so possessed me, that I at once went out: with
the crow-bar from the car I broke the window of a near iron-monger's in
Parliament Street, got a spade, and went into Westminster Abbey. I soon
prised up a grave-slab of some famous man in the north transept, and
commenced to shovel: but, I do not know how, by the time I had digged a
foot the whole impulse passed from me: I left off the work, promising to
resume it: but nothing was ever done, for the next day I was at
Woolwich, and busy enough about other matters.

       *       *       *       *       *

During the next nine days I worked with a fever on me, and a map of
London before me.

There were places in that city!--secrets, vastnesses, horrors! In the
wine-vaults at London Docks was a vat which must certainly have
contained between twenty and thirty thousand gallons: and with dancing
heart I laid a train there; the tobacco-warehouse must have covered
eighty acres: and there I laid a fuse. In a house near Regent's Park,
standing in a garden, and shut from the street by a high wall, I saw a
thing...! and what shapes a great city hid I now first know.

       *       *       *       *       *

I left no quarter unremembered, taking a train, no longer of four, but
of eight, vehicles, drawn by an electric motor which I re-charged every
morning, mostly from the turbine station in St. Pancras, once from a
steam-station with very small engine and dynamo, found in the Palace
Theatre, which gave little trouble, and once from a similar little
station in a Strand hotel. With these I visited West Ham and Kew,
Finchley and Clapham, Dalston and Marylebone; I exhausted London; I
deposited piles in the Guildhall, in Holloway Gaol, in the new pillared
Justice-hall of Newgate, in the Tower, in the Parliament-house, in St.
Giles' Workhouse, in the Crypt and under the organ of St. Paul's, in the
South Kensington Museum, in the Royal Agricultural Society, in
Whiteley's place, in the Trinity House, in Liverpool Street, in the
Office of Works, in the secret recesses of the British Museum; in a
hundred inflammable warehouses, in five hundred shops, in a thousand
private dwellings. And I timed them all for ignition at midnight of the
23rd April.

By five in the afternoon of the 22nd, when I left my train in Maida
Vale, and drove alone to the solitary house on high ground near
Hampstead Heath which I had chosen, the work was well finished.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great morning dawned, and I was early a-stir: for I had much to do
that day.

I intended to make for the sea-shore the next morning, and had therefore
to choose a good petrol motor, store it, and have it in a place of
safety; I had also to drag another vehicle after me, stored with trunks
of time-fuses, books, clothes, and other little things.

My first journey was to Woolwich, whence I took all that I might ever
require in the way of mechanism; thence to the National Gallery, where I
cut from their frames the 'Vision of St. Helena,' Murillo's 'Boy
Drinking,' and 'Christ at the Column'; and thence to the Embassy to
bathe, anoint myself, and dress.

As I had anticipated, and hoped, a blustering spring gale was blowing
from the north.

Even as I set out from Hampstead, about 9 A.M., I had been able to guess
that some of my fuses had somehow anticipated the appointed hour: for I
saw three red hazes at various points in the air, and heard the far
vague booming of an occasional explosion; and by 11 A.M. I felt sure
that a large region of north-eastern London must be in flames. With the
solemn feelings of bridegrooms and marriage-mornings--with a flinching,
a flinching heart, God knows, yet a heart up-buoyed on thrilling joys--I
went about making preparations for the Gargantuan orgy of the night.

       *       *       *       *       *

The house at Hampstead, which no doubt still stands, is of rather
pleasing design in quite a stone and rural style, with good breadths of
wall-surface, two plain coped gables, mullioned windows, and oversailing
slate verge roofs, but, rather spoiling it, a high square three-storied
tower at the south-east angle, on the topmost floor of which I had slept
the previous night. There I had provided myself with a jar of pale
tobacco mixed with rose-leaves and opium, found in a foreign house in
Seymour Street, also a genuine Saloniki hookah, together with the best
wines, nuts, and so on, and a gold harp of the musician Krasinski,
stamped with his name, taken from his house in Portland Street.

But so much did I find to do that day, and so many odd things turned up
which I thought that I would take with me, that it was not till near six
that I drove finally northward through Camden Town. And now an ineffable
awe possessed my soul at the solemn noise which everywhere encompassed
me, an ineffable awe, a blissful terror. Never, never could I have
dreamed of aught so great and potent. All above my head there rushed
southward with wide-spread wing of haste a sparkling smoke; and mixed
with the immense roaring I heard mysterious hubbubs of tumblings and
rumblings, which I could not at all comprehend, like the moving-about of
furniture in the houses of Titans; while pervading all the air was a
most weird and tearful sound, as it were threnody, and a wild wail of
pain, and dying swan-songs, and all lamentations and tribulations of the
world. Yet I was aware that, at an hour so early, the flames must be far
from general; in fact, they had not well commenced.

       *       *       *       *       *

As I had left a good semicircular region of houses, with a radius of
four hundred yards, without combustibles to the south of the isolated
house which I was to occupy, and as the wind was so strongly from the
north, I simply left my two vehicles at the door of the house, without
fear of any injury: nor did any occur. I then went up to the top of the
tower, lit the candles, and ate voraciously of the dinner which I had
left ready, for since the morning I had taken nothing; and then, with
hands and heart that quivered, I arranged the clothes of the low
spring-bed upon which to throw my frame in the morning hours. Opposite
the wall, where lay the bed, was a Gothic window, pretty large, with low
sill, hung with poppy-figured muslin, and looking directly south, so
that I could recline at ease in the red-velvet easy-chair, and see. It
had evidently been a young lady's room: for on the toilette were
cut-glass bottles, a plait of brown hair, powders, _rouge-aux-lèvres,_
one little bronze slipper, and knick-knacks, and I loved her and hated
her, though I did not see her anywhere. About half-past eight I sat at
the window to watch, all being arranged and ready at my right hand, the
candles extinguished in the red room: for the theatre was opened, was
opened: and the atmosphere of this earth seemed turned into Hell, and
Hell was in my soul.

       *       *       *       *       *

Soon after midnight there was a sudden and very visible increase in the
conflagration. On all hands I began to see blazing structures soar, with
grand hurrahs, on high. In fives and tens, in twenties and thirties, all
between me and the remote limit of my vision, they leapt, they lingered
long, they fell. My spirit more and more felt, and danced--deeper
mysteries of sensation, sweeter thrills. I sipped exquisitely, I drew
out enjoyment leisurely. Anon, when some more expansive angel of flame
would arise from the Pit with steady aspiration, and linger with
outspread arms, and burst, I would lift a little from the chair, leaning
forward to clap, as at some famous acting; or I would call to them in
shouts of cheer, giving them the names of Woman. For now I seemed to see
nothing but some bellowing pandemonic universe through crimson glasses,
and the air was wildly hot, and my eye-balls like theirs that walk
staring in the inner midst of burning fiery furnaces, and my skin itched
with a fierce and prickly itch. Anon I touched the chords of the harp to
the air of Wagner's 'Walküren-ritt.'

Near three in the morning, I reached the climax of my guilty sweets. My
drunken eye-lids closed in a luxury of pleasure, and my lips lay
stretched in a smile that dribbled; a sensation of dear peace, of
almighty power, consoled me: for now the whole area which through
streaming tears I surveyed, mustering its ten thousand thunders, and
brawling beyond the stars the voice of its southward-rushing torment,
billowed to the horizon one grand Atlantic of smokeless and flushing
flame; and in it sported and washed themselves all the fiends of Hell,
with laughter, shouts, wild flights, and holiday; and I--first of my
race--had flashed a signal to the nearer planets....


       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

Those words: 'signal to the nearer planets' I wrote nearly fourteen
months ago, some days after the destruction of London, I being then on
board the old _Boreal_, making for the coast of France: for the night
was dark, though calm, and I was afraid of running into some ship, yet
not sleepy, so I wrote to occupy my fingers, the ship lying still. The
book in which I wrote has been near me: but no impulse to write anything
has visited me, till now I continue; not, however, that I have very much
to put down.

I had no intention of wearing out my life in lighting fires every
morning to warm myself in the inhospitable island of Britain, and set
out to France with the view of seeking some palace in the Riviera,
Spain, or perhaps Algiers, there, for the present at least, to make my
home.

I started from Calais toward the end of April, taking my things along,
the first two days by train, and then determining that I was in no
hurry, and a petrol motor easier, took one, and maintained a generally
southern and somewhat eastern direction, ever-anew astonished at the
wildness of the forest vegetation which, within so short a space since
the disappearance of man, chokes this pleasant land, even before the
definite advent of summer.

After three weeks of very slow travelling--for though I know several
countries very well, France with her pavered villages, hilly character,
vines, forests, and primeval country-manner, is always new and charming
to me--after three weeks I came unexpectedly to a valley which had never
entered my head; and the moment that I saw it, I said: 'Here I will
live,' though I had no idea what it was, for the monastery which I saw
did not look at all like a monastery, according to my ideas: but when I
searched the map, I discovered that it must be La Chartreuse de
Vauclaire in Périgord.

It is my belief that this word 'Vauclaire' is nothing else than a
corruption of the Latin _Vallis Clara,_ or Bright Valley, for _l'_s and
_u'_s did interchange about in this way, I remember: _cheval_ becoming
_chevau(x)_ in the plural, like 'fool' and 'fou,' and the rest: which
proves the dear laziness of French people, for the 'l' was too much
trouble for them to sing, and when they came to _two_ 'l's' they quite
succumbed, shying that vault, or vo_u_te, and calling it some _y_. But
at any rate, this Vauclaire, or Valclear, was well named: for here, if
anywhere, is Paradise, and if anyone knew how and where to build and
brew liqueurs, it was those good old monks, who followed their Master
with _entrain_ in that Cana miracle, and in many other things, I fancy,
but aesthetically shirked to say to any mountain: 'Be thou removed.'

       *       *       *       *       *

The general hue of the vale is a deep cerulean, resembling that blue of
the robes of Albertinelli's Madonnas; so, at least, it strikes the eye
on a clear forenoon of spring or summer. The monastery consists of an
oblong space, or garth, around three sides of which stand sixteen small
houses, with regular intervals between, all identical, the cells of the
fathers; between the oblong space and the cells come the cloisters, with
only one opening to the exterior; in the western part of the oblong is
a little square of earth under a large cypress-shade, within which, as
in a home of peace, it sleeps: and there, straight and slanting, stand
little plain black crosses over graves....

To the west of the quadrangle is the church, with the hostelry, and an
asphalted court with some trees and a fountain; and beyond, the
entrance-gate.

All this stands on a hill of gentle slope, green as grass; and it is
backed close against a steep mountain-side, of which the tree-trunks are
conjectural, for I never saw any, the trees resembling rather one
continuous leafy tree-top, run out high and far over the extent of the
mountain.

       *       *       *       *       *

I was there four months, till something drove me away. I do not know
what had become of the fathers and brothers, for I only found five, four
of whom I took in two journeys in the motor beyond the church of Saint
Martial d'Artenset, and left them there; and the fifth remained three
weeks with me, for I would not disturb him in his prayer. He was a
bearded brother of forty years or thereabouts, who knelt in his cell
robed and hooded in all his phantom white: for in no way different from
whatever is most phantom, visionary and eerie must a procession of these
people have seemed by gloaming, or dark night This particular brother
knelt, I say, in his small chaste room, glaring upward at his Christ,
who hung long-armed in a little recess between the side of three narrow
bookshelves and a projection of the wall; and under the Christ a gilt
and blue Madonna; the books on the three shelves few, leaning different
ways. His right elbow rested on a square plain table, at which was a
wooden chair; behind him, in a corner, the bed: a bed all enclosed in
dark boards, a broad perpendicular board along the foot, reaching the
ceiling, a horizontal board at the side over which he got into bed,
another narrower one like it at the ceiling for fringe and curtain, and
another perpendicular one hiding the pillow, making the clean bed within
a very shady and cosy little den, on the wall of this den being another
smaller Christ and a little picture. On the perpendicular board at the
foot hung two white garments, and over a second chair at the bed-side
another: all very neat and holy. He was a large stern man, blond as
corn, but with some red, too, in his hairy beard; and appalling was the
significance of those eyes that prayed, and the long-drawn cavity of
those saffron cheeks. I cannot explain to myself my deep reverence for
this man; but I had it, certainly. Many of the others, it is clear, had
fled: but not he: and to the near-marching cloud he opposed the Cross,
holding one real as the other--he alone among many. For Christianity was
an _élite_ religion, in which all were called, but few chosen, differing
from Mohammedanism and Buddhism, which grasped and conquered all within
their reach: the effect of Christ rather resembling Plato's and Dante's,
it would seem: but Mahomet's more like Homer's and Shakespeare's.

It was my way to plant at the portal the big, carved chair from the
chancel on the hot days, and rest my soul, refusing to think of
anything, drowsing and smoking for hours. All down there in the plain
waved gardens of delicious fruit about the prolonged silver thread of
the river Isle, whose course winds loitering quite near the foot of the
monastery-slope. This slope dominates a tract of distance that is not
only vast, but looks immense, although the horizon is bounded by a
semicircle of low hills, rather too stiff and uniform for perfect
beauty; the interval of plain being occupied by yellow ploughed lands
which were never sown, weedy now, and crossed and recrossed by
vividly-green ribbons of vine, with stretches of pale-green lucerne,
orchards, and the white village of Monpont near the railway, all
embowered, the Isle drawing its mercurial streams through the
village-meadow, which is dark with shades of oaks: and to have played
there a boy, and used it familiarly from birth as one's own hand or
foot, must have been very sweet and homely; after this, the river
divides, and takes the shape of a heart; and very far away are visible
the grey banks of the Gironde. On the semicircle of hills, when there
was little distance-mist, I saw the ruins of some seigneurial château,
for the seigneurs, too, knew where to build; and to my left, between a
clump of oaks and an avenue of poplars, the bell-tower of the
village--church of Saint Martial d'Artenset--a very ancient type of
tower, I believe, and common in France, rather ponderous, consisting of
a square mass with a smaller square mass stuck on, the latter having
large Gothic windows; and behind me the west face of the
monastery-church, over the door being the statue of Saint Bruno.

Well, one morning after four months, I opened my eyes in my cell to the
piercing consciousness that I had burned Monpont over-night: and so
overcome was I with regret for this poor inoffensive little place, that
for two days, hardly eating, I paced between the oak and walnut pews of
the nave, massive stalls they are, separated by grooved Corinthian
pilasters, wondering what was to become of me, and if I was not already
mad; and there are some little angels with extraordinarily human
Greuze-like faces, supporting the nerves of the apse, which, after a
time, every time I passed them, seemed conscious of me and my existence
there; and the wood-work which ornaments the length of the nave, and of
the choir also, elaborate with carved marguerites and roses, here and
there took in my eyes significant forms from certain points of view; and
there is a partition--for the nave is divided into two chapels, one for
the brothers and one for the fathers, I conclude--and in this partition
a massive door, which yet looks quite light and graceful, carved with
oak and acanthus leaves, and every time I passed through I had the
impression that the door was a sentient thing, subconscious of me; and
the delicate Italian-Renaissance brick vault which springs from the vast
nave seemed to look upon me with a gloomy knowledge of me, and of the
heart within me; and at about four in the afternoon of the second day,
after pacing the church for hours, I fell down at one of the two altars
near that carved door of the screen, praying God to have mercy upon my
soul; and in the very midst of my praying, I was up and away, the devil
in me, and I got into the motor, and did not come back to Vauclaire for
another month, and came leaving great tracts of burned desolation behind
me, towns and forests, Bordeaux burned, Lebourne burned, Bergerac
burned.

       *       *       *       *       *

I returned to Vauclaire, for it seemed now my home; and there I
experienced a true, a deep repentance; and I humbled myself before my
Maker. And while in this state, sitting one bright day in front of the
monastery-gate, something said to me: 'You will never be a good man, nor
permanently escape Hell and Frenzy, unless you have an aim in life,
devoting yourself heart and soul to some great work, which will exact
all your science, your thought, your ingenuity, your knowledge of modern
things, your strength of body and will, your skill of head and hand:
otherwise you are bound to succumb. Do this, therefore, beginning, not
to-morrow nor this afternoon, but now: for though no man will see your
work, there is still the Almighty God, who is also something, in His
way: and He will see how you strive, and try, and groan: and perhaps,
seeing, He may have mercy upon you.'

       *       *       *       *       *

In this way arose the idea of the Palace--an idea, indeed, which had
entered my brain before, but merely as a bombastic and visionary outcome
of my raving moods: now, however, in a very different way, soberly, and
soon concerning itself with details, difficulties, means, limitations,
and every kind of practical matter-of-fact; and every obstruction which,
one by one, I foresaw was, one by one, as the days passed, over-borne by
the vigour with which that thought, rapidly becoming a mania, possessed
me. After a week of incessant meditation, I decided Yes: and I said: I
will build a palace, which shall be both a palace and a temple: the
first human temple worthy the King of Heaven, and the only human palace
worthy the King of Earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

After this decision I remained at Vauclaire another week, a very
different man to the lounger it had seen, strenuous, converted, humble,
making plans of this and of that, of the detail, and of the whole,
drawing, multiplying, dividing, adding, conic sections and the
rule-of-three, totting up the period of building, which came out at a
little over twelve years, estimating the quantities of material, weight
and bulk, my nights full of nightmare as to the _sort_, deciding as to
the size and structure of the crane, forge, and work-shop, and the
necessarily-limited weights of their component parts, making a list of
over 2,400 objects, and finally, up to the third week after my departure
from Vauclaire, skimming through the topography of nearly the whole
earth, before fixing upon the island of Imbros for my site.

       *       *       *       *       *

I returned to England, and, once more, to the hollow windows and strewn
streets of black, burned-out and desolate London: for its bank-vaults,
etc., contained the necessary complement of the gold brought from Paris,
and then lying in the _Speranza_ at Dover; nor had I sufficient
familiarity with French industries and methods to find, even with the
aid of _Bottins_, one half of the 4,000 odd objects which I had now
catalogued. My ship was the _Speranza_, which brought me from Havre, for
at Calais, to which I first went, I could find nothing suitable for all
purposes, the _Speranza_ being an American yacht, very palatially
fitted, three-masted, air-driven, with a carrying capacity of 2,000
tons, Tobin-bronzed, in good condition, containing sixteen interacting
tanks, with a five-block pulley-arrangement amid-ships that enables me
to lift very considerable weights without the aid of the hoisting
air-engine, high in the water, sharp, handsome, containing a few tons
only of sand-ballast, and needing when I found her only three days' work
at the water-line and engines to make her decent and fit. I threw out
her dead, backed her from the Outer to the Inner Basin to my train on
the quai, took in the twenty-three hundred-weight bags of gold, and the
half-ton of amber, and with this alone went to Dover, thence to
Canterbury by motor, and thence in a long train, with a store of
dynamite from the Castle for blasting possible obstructions, to London:
meaning to make Dover my _dépôt_, and the London rails my thoroughfare
from all parts of the country.

Instead of three months, as I had calculated, it took me nine: a
harrowing slavery. I had to blast no less than forty-three trains from
the path of my loaded wagons, several times blasting away the metals as
well, and then having to travel hundreds of yards without metals: for
the labour of kindling the obstructing engines, to shunt them down
sidings perhaps distant, was a thing which I would not undertake.
However, all's well that ends well, though if I had it to go through
again, certainly I should not. The _Speranza_ is now lying seven miles
off Cape Roca, a heavy mist on the still water, this being the 19th of
June at 10 in the night: no wind, no moon: cabin full of mist: and I
pretty listless and disappointed, wondering in my heart why I was such
a fool as to take all that trouble, nine long servile months, my good
God, and now seriously thinking of throwing the whole vile thing to the
devil; she pretty deep in the water, pregnant with the palace. When the
thirty-three ...

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

Those words: 'when the thirty-three' were written by me over seventeen
years since--long years--seventeen in number, nor have I now any idea to
what they refer. The book in which I wrote I had lost in the cabin of
the _Speranza_, and yesterday, returning to Imbros from an hour's
aimless cruise, discovered it there behind a chest.

I find now considerable difficulty in guiding the pencil, and these few
lines now written have quite an odd look, like the handwriting of a man
not very proficient in the art: it is seventeen years, seventeen,
seventeen ... ah! And the expression of my ideas is not fluent either: I
have to think for the word a minute, and I should not be surprised if
the spelling of some of them is queer. My brain has been thinking
inarticulately perhaps, all these years: and the English words and
letters, as they now stand written, have rather an improbable and
foreign air to me, as a Greek or Russian book might look to a man who
has not so long been learning those languages as to forget the
impossibly foreign impression received from them on the first day of
tackling them. Or perhaps it is only my fancy: for that I have fancies I
know.

But what to write? The history of those seventeen years could not be put
down, my good God: at least, it would take me seventeen more to do it.
If I were to detail the building of the palace alone, and how it killed
me nearly, and how I twice fled from it, and had to return, and became
its bounden slave, and dreamed of it, and grovelled before it, and
prayed, and raved, and rolled; and how I forgot to make provision on the
west side for the contraction and expansion of the gold in the colder
weather and the heats of summer, and had to break down nine months'
work, and how I cursed Thee, how I cursed Thee; and how the lake of wine
evaporated faster than the conduits replenished it, and the three
journeys which I had to take to Constantinople for shiploads of wine,
and my frothing despairs, till I had the thought of placing the
reservoir in the platform; and how I had then to break down the south
side of the platform to the very bottom, and of the month-long nightmare
of terror that I had lest the south side of the palace would undergo
subsidence; and how the petrol failed, and of the three-weeks' search
for petrol along the coast; and how, after list-rubbing all the jet, I
found that I had forgotten the necessary rouge for polishing; and how,
in the third year, I found the fluate, which I had for water-proofing
the pores of the platform-stone, nearly all leaked away in the
_Speranza's_ hold, and I had to get silicate of soda at Gallipoli; and
how, after two years' observation, I had to come to the conclusion that
the lake was leaking, and discovered that this Imbros sand was not
suitable for mixing with the skin of Portland cement which covered the
cement concrete, and had to substitute sheet-bitumen in three places;
and how I did all, all for the sake of God, thinking: 'I will work, and
be a good man, and cast Hell from me: and when I see it stand finished,
it will be an Altar and a Testimony to me, and I shall find peace, and
be well': and how I have been cheated--seventeen years, long years of my
life--for there is no God; and how my plasterers'-hair failed me, and I
had to use flock, hessian, scrym, wadding, wood-street paving-blocks,
and whatever I could find, for filling the interspaces between the
platform cross-walls; and of the espagnolette bolts, how a number of
them mysteriously disappeared, as if snatched to Hell by harpies, and I
had to make them; and how the crane-chain would not reach two of the
silver-panel castings when they were finished, and they were too heavy
for me to lift, and the wringing of the hands of my despair, and my
biting of the earth, and the transport of my fury; and how, for a whole
wild week, I searched in vain for the text-book which describes the
ambering process; and how, when all was nearly over, in the blasting
away of the forge and crane with dynamite, a long crack appeared down
the gold of the east platform-steps, and how I would not be consoled,
but mourned and mourned; and how, in spite of all my tribulations, it
was sweetly interesting to watch my power slowly grow from the first
feeble beginnings of the landing of materials and unloading them from
the motor, a hundred-weight at a time, till I could swing four tons--see
the solid metals flow--enjoy the gliding sounds of the handle,
crank-shaft, and system of levers, forcing inwards the mould-end, and
the upper and lower plungers, for pressing the material--build at ease
in a travelling-cage--and watch from my hut-door through sleepless
hours, under the electric moonlight of this land, the three piles of
gold stones, the silver panels, the two-foot squares of jet, and be
comforted; and how the putty-wash--but it is past, it is past: and not
to live over again that vulgar nightmare of means and ends have I taken
to this writing again--but to put down something else, if I dare.

Seventeen years, my good God, of that delusion! I could write down no
sort of explanation for all those groans and griefs, at which a
reasoning being would not shriek with laughter. I should have lived at
ease in some palace of the Middle-Orient, and burned my cities: but no,
I must be 'a good man'--vain thought. The words of a wild madman, that
preaching man in England who prophesied what happened, were with me,
where he says: 'the defeat of Man is _His_ defeat'; and I said to
myself: 'Well, the last man shall not be quite a fiend, just to spite
That Other.' And I worked and groaned, saying: 'I will be a good man,
and burn nothing, nor utter aught unseemly, nor debauch myself, but
choke back the blasphemies that Those Others shriek through my throat,
and build and build, with moils and groans.' And it was Vanity: though I
do love the house, too, I love it well, for it is my home on the waste
earth.

I had calculated to finish it in twelve years, and I should undoubtedly
have finished it in fourteen, instead of in sixteen and seven months,
but one day, when the south, north, and east platform-steps were already
finished--it was in the July of the third year, and near sunset--as I
left off work, instead of going to the tent where my dinner lay ready, I
walked down to the ship--most strangely--in a daft, mechanical sort of
way, without saying a word to myself, an evil-meaning smile of malice on
my lips; and at midnight I was lying off Mitylene, thirty miles to the
south, having bid, as I thought, a last farewell to all those toils. I
was going to burn Athens.

I did not, however: but kept on my way westward round Cape Matapan,
intending to destroy the forests and towns of Sicily, if I found there a
suitable motor for travelling, for I had not been at the pains to take
the motor on board at Imbros; otherwise I would ravage parts of southern
Italy. But when I came thereabouts, I was confronted with an awful
horror: for no southern Italy was there, and no Sicily was there, unless
a small new island, probably not five miles long, was Sicily; and
nothing else I saw, save the still-smoking crater of Stromboli. I
cruised northward, searching for land, and for a long time would not
believe the evidence of the instruments, thinking that they wilfully
misled me, or I stark mad. But no: no Italy was there, till I came to
the latitude of Naples, it, too, having disappeared, engulfed, engulfed,
all that stretch. From this monstrous thing I received so solemn a shock
and mood of awe, that the evil mind in me was quite chilled and quelled:
for it was, and is, my belief that a wide-spread re-arrangement of the
earth's surface is being purposed, and in all that drama, O my God, how
shall _I_ be found?

However, I went on my way, but more leisurely, not daring for a long
time to do anything, lest I might offend anyone; and, in this foolish
cowering mind, coasted all the western coast of Spain and France during
five weeks, in that prolonged intensity of calm weather which now
alternates with storms that transcend all thought, till I came again to
Calais: and there, for the first time, landed.

Here I would no longer contain myself, but burned; and that magnificent
stretch of forest that lay between Agincourt and Abbéville, covering
five square miles, I burned; and Abbéville I burned; and Amiens I
burned; and three forests between Amiens and Paris I burned; and Paris I
burned; burning and burning during four months, leaving behind me
smoking districts, a long tract of ravage, like some being of the Pit
that blights where pass his flaming wings.

       *       *       *       *       *

This of city-burning has now become a habit with me more enchaining--and
infinitely more debased--than ever was opium to the smoker, or alcohol
to the drunkard. I count it among the prime necessaries of my life: it
is my brandy, my bacchanal, my secret sin. I have burned Calcutta,
Pekin, and San Francisco. In spite of the restraining influence of this
palace, I have burned and burned. I have burned two hundred cities and
countrysides. Like Leviathan disporting himself in the sea, so I have
rioted in this earth.

       *       *       *       *       *

After an absence of six months, I returned to Imbros: for I was for
looking again upon the work which I had done, that I might mock myself
for all that unkingly grovelling: and when I saw it, standing there as I
had left it, frustrate and forlorn, and waiting its maker's hand, some
pity and instinct to build took me--for something of God was in Man--and
I fell upon my knees, and spread my arms to God, and was converted,
promising to finish the palace, with prayers that as I built so He
would build my soul, and save the last man from the enemy. And I set to
work that day to list-rub the last few dalles of the jet.

       *       *       *       *       *

I did not leave Imbros after that during four years, except for
occasional brief trips to the coast--to Kilid-Bahr, Gallipoli, Lapsaki,
Gamos, Rodosto, Erdek, Erekli, or even once to Constantinople and
Scutari--if I happened to want anything, or if I was tired of work: but
without once doing the least harm to anything, but containing my
humours, and fearing my Maker. And full of peaceful charm were those
little cruises through this Levantic world, which, truly, is rather like
a light sketch in water-colours done by an angel than like the dun real
earth; and full of self-satisfaction and pious contentment would I
return to Imbros, approved of my conscience, for that I had surmounted
temptation, and lived tame and stainless.

I had set up the southern of the two closed-lotus pillars, and the
platform-top was already looking as lovely as heaven, with its alternate
two-foot squares of pellucid gold and pellucid jet, when I noticed one
morning that the _Speranza's_ bottom was really now too foul, and the
whim took me then and there to leave all, and clean her as far as I
could. I at once went on board, descended to the hold, took off my
sudeyrie, and began to shift the ballast over to starboard, so as to
tilt up her port bottom to the scraper. This was wearying labour, and
about noon I was sitting on a bag, resting in the almost darkness, when
something seemed to whisper to me these words: '_You dreamed last night
that there is an old Chinaman alive in Pekin._' Horridly I started: I
_had_ dreamed something of the sort, but, from the moment of waking,
till then, had forgotten it: and I leapt livid to my feet.

I cleaned no _Speranza_ that day, nor for four days did I anything, but
sat on the cabin-house and mused, my supporting palm among the hairy
draperies of my chin: for the thought of such a thing, if it could by
any possibility be true, was detestable as death to me, changing the
colour of the sun, and the whole aspect of the world: and anon, at the
outrage of that thing, my brow would flush with wrath, and my eyes
blaze: till, on the fourth afternoon, I said to myself: 'That old
Chinaman in Pekin is likely to get burned to death, I think, or blown to
the clouds!'

So, a second time, on the 4th March, the poor palace was left to build
itself. For, after a short trip to Gallipoli, where I got some young
lime-twigs in boxes of earth, and some preserved limes and ginger, I set
out for a long voyage to the East, passing through the Suez Canal, and
visiting Bombay, where I was three weeks, and then destroyed it.

       *       *       *       *       *

I had the thought of going across Hindustan by engine, but did not like
to leave my ship, to which I was very attached, not sure of finding
anything so suitable and good at Calcutta; and, moreover, I was afraid
to abandon my petrol motor, which I had taken on board with the
air-windlass, since I was going to uncivilised land. I therefore coasted
down western Hindustan.

All that northern shore of the Arabian Sea has at the present time an
odour which it wafts far over the water, resembling odours of happy
vague dream-lands, sweet to smell in the early mornings as if the earth
were nothing but a perfume, and life an inhalation.

On that voyage, however, I had, from beginning to end, twenty-seven
fearful storms, or, if I count that one near the Carolines, then
twenty-eight. But I do not wish to write of these rages: they were too
inhuman: and how I came alive through them against all my wildest hope,
Someone, or Something, only knows.

I will write down here a thing: it is this, my God--something which I
have observed: a definite obstreperousness in the mood of the elements
now, when once roused, which grows, which grows continually. Tempests
have become very very far more wrathful, the sea more truculent and
unbounded in its insolence; when it thunders, it thunders with a venom
new to me, cracking as though it would split the firmament, and bawling
through the heaven of heavens, as if roaring to devour all things; in
Bombay once, and in China thrice, I was shaken by earthquakes, the
second and third marked by a certain extravagance of agitation, that
might turn a man grey. Why should this be, my God? I remember reading
very long ago that on the American prairies, which from time immemorial
had been swept by great storms, the storms gradually subsided when man
went to reside permanently there. If this be true, it would seem that
the mere presence of man had a certain subduing or mesmerising effect
upon the native turbulence of Nature, and his absence now may have
removed the curb. It is my belief that within fifty years from now the
huge forces of the earth will be let fully loose to tumble as they will;
and this planet will become one of the undisputed playgrounds of Hell,
and the theatre of commotions stupendous as those witnessed on the face
of Saturn.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Earth is all on my brain, on my brain, O dark-minded Mother, with
thy passionate cravings after the Infinite, thy regrets, and mighty
griefs, and comatose sleeps, and sinister coming doom, O Earth: and I,
poor man, though a king, sole witness of thy bleak tremendous woes. Upon
her I brood, and do not cease, but brood and brood--the habit, if I
remember right, first becoming fixed and fated during that long voyage
eastward: for what is in store for her God only knows, and I have seen
in my broodings long visions of her future, which, if a man should see
with the eye of flesh, he would spread the arms, and wheel and wheel
through the mazes of a hiccuping giggling frenzy, for the vision only is
the very verge of madness. If I might cease but for one hour that
perpetual brooding upon her! But I am her child, and my mind grows and
grows to her like the off-shoots of the banyan-tree, that take root
downward, and she sucks and draws it, as she draws my feet by
gravitation, and I cannot take wing from her: for she is greater than I,
and there is no escaping her; and at the last, I know, my soul will
dash itself to ruin, like erring sea-fowl upon pharos-lights, against
her wild and mighty bosom. Often a whole night through I lie open-eyed
in the dark, with bursting brain, thinking of that hollow Gulf of
Mexico, how identical in shape and size with the protuberance of Africa
just opposite, and how the protuberance of the Venezuelan and Brazilian
coast fits in with the in-curve of Africa: so that it is obvious to
me--it is quite _obvious_--that they once were one; and one night rushed
so far apart; and the wild Atlantic knew that thing, and ran gladly,
hasting in between: and how if eye of flesh had been there to see, and
ear to hear that cruel thundering, my God, my God--what horror! And if
now they meet again, so long apart ...but that way fury lies. Yet one
cannot help but think: I lie awake and think, for she fills my soul, and
absorbs it, with all her moods and ways. She has meanings, secrets,
plans. Strange, strange, for instance, that similarity between the
scheme of Europe and the scheme of Asia: each with three southern
peninsulas pointing south: Spain corresponding with Arabia, Italy with
India, the Morea and Greece, divided by the Gulf of Corinth,
corresponding with the Malay Peninsula and Annam, divided by the Gulf of
Siam; each with two northern peninsulas pointing south, Sweden and
Norway, and Korea and Kamschatka; each with two great islands similarly
placed, Britain and Ireland, and the Japanese Hondo and Yezo; the Old
World and the New has each a peninsula pointing north--Denmark and
Yucatan: a forefinger with long nail--and a thumb--pointing to the Pole.
What does she mean? What can she mean, O Ye that made her? Is she
herself a living being, with a will and a fate, as sailors said that
ships were living entities? And that thing that wheeled at the Pole,
wheels it still yonder, yonder, in its dark ecstasy? Strange that
volcanoes are all near the sea: I don't know why; I don't think that
anyone ever knew. This fact, in connection with submarine explosions,
used to be cited in support of the chemical theory of volcanoes, which
supposed the infiltration of the sea into ravines containing the
materials which form the fuel of eruptions: but God knows if that is
true. The lofty ones are intermittent--a century, two, ten, of silent
waiting, and then their talk silenced for ever some poor district; the
low ones are constant in action. Who could know the dark way of the
world? Sometimes they form a linear system, consisting of several vents
which extend in one direction, near together, like chimneys of some long
foundry beneath. In mountains, a series of serrated peaks denotes the
presence of dolomites; rounded heads mean calcareous rocks; and needles,
crystalline schists. The preponderance of land in the northern
hemisphere denotes the greater intensity there of the causes of
elevation at a remote geologic epoch: that is all that one can say about
it: but whence that greater intensity? I have some knowledge of the
earth for only ten miles down: but she has eight thousand miles: and
whether through all that depth she is flame or fluid, hard or soft, I do
not know, I do not know. Her method of forming coal, geysers and hot
sulphur-springs, and the jewels, and the atols and coral reefs; the
metamorphic rocks of sedimentary origin, like gneiss, the plutonic and
volcanic rocks, rocks of fusion, and the unstratified masses which
constitute the basis of the crust; and harvests, the burning flame of
flowers, and the passage from the vegetable to the animal: I do not know
them, but they are of her, and they are like me, molten in the same
furnace of her fiery heart. She is dark and moody, sudden and ill-fated,
and rends her young like a cannibal lioness; and she is old and wise,
and remembers Hur of the Chaldees which Uruk built, and that Temple of
Bel which rose in seven pyramids to symbolise the planets, and
Birs-i-Nimrud, and Haran, and she bears still, as a thing of yesterday,
old Persepolis and the tomb of Cyrus, and those cloister-like
vihârah-temples of the ancient Buddhists, cut from the Himalayan rock;
and returning from the Far East, I stopped at Ismailia, and so to Cairo,
and saw where Memphis was, and stood one bright midnight before that
great pyramid of Shafra, and that dumb Sphynx, and, seated at the well
of one of the rock-tombs, looked till tears of pity streamed down my
cheeks: for great is the earth, and her Ages, but man 'passeth away.'
These tombs have pillars extremely like the two palace-pillars, only
that these are round, and mine are square: for I chose it so: but the
same band near the top, then over this the closed lotus-flower, then the
small square plinth, which separates them from the architrave, only mine
have no architrave; the tombs consist of a little outer temple or court,
then comes a well, and inside another chamber, where, I suppose, the
dead were, a ribbon-like astragal surrounding the walls, which are
crowned with boldly-projecting cornices, surmounted by an abacus. And
here, till the pressing want of food drove me back, I remained: for more
and more the earth over-grows me, wooes me, assimilates me; so that I
ask myself this question: 'Must I not, in time, cease to be a man, and
become a small earth, precisely her copy, extravagantly weird and
fierce, half-demoniac, half-ferine, wholly mystic--morose and
turbulent--fitful, and deranged, and sad--like her?'

       *       *       *       *       *

A whole month of that voyage, from May the 15th to June the 13th, I
wasted at the Andaman Islands near Malay: for that any old Chinaman
could be alive in Pekin began, after some time, to seem the most
quixotic notion that ever entered a human brain; and these jungled
islands, to which I came after a shocking vast orgy one night at
Calcutta, when I fired not only the city but the river, pleased my fancy
to such an extent, that at one time I intended to abide there. I was at
the one called in the chart 'Saddle Hill,' the smallest of them, I
think: and seldom have I had such sensations of peace as I lay a whole
burning day in a rising vale, deeply-shaded in palm and tropical
ranknesses, watching thence the _Speranza_ at anchor: for there was a
little offing here at the shore whence the valley arose, and I could see
one of its long peaks lined with cocoanut-trees, and all cloud burned
out of the sky except the flimsiest lawn-figments, and the sea as
absolutely calm as a lake roughened with breezes, yet making a
considerable noise in its breaking on the shore, as I have noticed in
these sorts of places: I do not know why. These poor Andaman people seem
to have been quite savage, for I met a number of them in roaming the
island, nearly skeletons, yet with limbs and vertebrae still, in
general, cohering, and in some cases dry-skinned and mummified relics of
flesh, and never anywhere a sign of clothes: a very singular thing,
considering their nearness to high old civilisations all about them.
They looked small and black, or almost; and I never found a man without
finding on or near him a spear and other weapons: so that they were
eager folk, and the wayward dark earth was in them, too, as she should
be in her children. They had in many cases some reddish discoloration,
which may have been the traces of betel-nut stains: for betel-nuts
abound there. And I was so pleased with these people, that I took on
board with the gig one of their little tree-canoes: which was my
foolishness: for gig and canoe were only three nights later washed from
the decks into the middle of the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

I passed down the Straits of Malacca, and in that short distance between
the Andaman Islands, and the S.W. corner of Borneo I was thrice so
mauled, that at times it seemed quite out of the question that anything
built by man could escape such unfettered cataclysms, and I resigned
myself, but with bitter reproaches, to perish darkly. The effect of the
third upon me, when it was over, was the unloosening afresh of all my
evil passion: for I said: 'Since they mean to slay me, death shall find
me rebellious'; and for weeks I could not sight some specially happy
village, or umbrageous spread of woodland, that I did not stop the ship,
and land the materials for their destruction; so that nearly all those
spicy lands about the north of Australia will bear the traces of my hand
for many a year: for more and more my voyage became dawdling and
zigzaged, as the merest whim directed it, or the movement of the pointer
on the chart; and I thought of eating the lotus of surcease and nepenthe
in some enchanted nook of this bowering summer, where from my hut-door I
could see through the pearl-hues of opium the sea-lagoon slaver lazily
upon the old coral atol, and the cocoanut-tree would droop like slumber,
and the bread-fruit tree would moan in sweet and weary dream, and I
should watch the _Speranza_ lie anchored in the pale atol-lake, year
after year, and wonder what she was, and whence, and why she dozed so
deep for ever, and after an age of melancholy peace and burdened bliss,
I should note that sun and moon had ceased revolving, and hung inert,
opening anon a heavy lid to doze and drowse again, and God would sigh
'Enough,' and nod, and Being would swoon to sleep: for that any old
Chinaman should be alive in Pekin was a thing so fantastically maniac,
as to draw from me at times sudden fits of wild red laughter that left
me faint.

During a space of four months, from the 18th June to the 23rd October, I
visited the Fijis, where I saw skulls still surrounded with remnants of
extraordinary haloes of stiff hair, women clad in girdles made of thongs
fixed in a belt, and, in Samoa near, bodies crowned with coronets of
nautilus-shell, and traces of turmeric-paint and tattooing, and in one
townlet a great assemblage of carcasses, suggesting by their look some
festival, or dance: so that I believe that these people were overthrown
without the least fore-knowledge of anything. The women of the Maoris
wore an abundance of green-jade ornaments, and I found a peculiar kind
of shell-trumpet, one of which I have now, also a tattooing chisel, and
a nicely-carved wooden bowl. The people of New Caledonia, on the other
hand, went, I should think, naked, confining their attention to the
hair, and in this resembling the Fijians, for they seemed to wear an
artificial hair made of the fur of some creature like a bat, and also
they wore wooden masks, and great rings--for the ear, no doubt--which
must have fallen to the shoulders: for the earth was in them all, and
made them wild, perverse and various like herself. I went from one to
the other without any system whatever, searching for the ideal
resting-place, and often thinking that I had found it: but only wearying
of it at the thought that there was a yet deeper and dreamier in the
world. But in this search I received a check, my God, which chilled me
to the marrow, and set me flying from these places.

       *       *       *       *       *

One evening, the 29th November, I dined rather late--at eight--sitting,
as was my custom in calm weather, cross-legged on the cabin-rug at the
port aft corner, a small semicircle of _Speranza_ gold-plate before me,
and near above me the red-shaded lamp with green conical reservoir,
whose creakings never cease in the stillest mid-sea, and beyond the
plates the array of preserved soups, meat-extracts, meats, fruit,
sweets, wines, nuts, liqueurs, coffee on the silver spirit-tripod,
glasses, cruet, and so on, which it was always my first care to select
from the store-room, open, and lay out once for all in the morning on
rising. I was late, seven being my hour: for on that day I had been
engaged in the occasionally necessary, but always deferred, task of
overhauling the ship, brushing here a rope with tar, there a board with
paint, there a crank with oil, rubbing a door-handle, a brass-fitting,
filling the three cabin-lamps, dusting mirrors and furniture, dashing
the great neat-joinered plains of deck with bucketfulls, or, high in
air, chopping loose with its rigging the mizzen top-mast, which since a
month was sprained at the clamps, all this in cotton drawers under loose
_quamis_, bare-footed, my beard knotted up, the sun a-blaze, the sea
smooth and pale with the smooth pallor of strong currents, the ship
still enough, no land in sight, yet great tracts of sea-weed making
eastward--I working from 11 A.M. till near 7, when sudden darkness
interrupted: for I wished to have it all over in one obnoxious day. I
was therefore very tired when I went down, lit the central chain-lever
lamp and my own two, washed and dressed in my bedroom, and sat to dinner
in the dining-hall corner. I ate voraciously, with sweat, as usual,
pouring down my eager brow, using knife or spoon in the right hand, but
never the Western fork, licking the plates clean in the Mohammedan
manner, and drinking pretty freely. Still I was tired, and went upon
deck, where I had the threadbare blue-velvet easy-chair with the broken
left arm before the wheel, and in it sat smoking cigar after cigar from
the Indian D box, half-asleep, yet conscious. The moon came up into a
pretty cloudless sky, and she was bright, but not bright enough to
out-shine the enlightened flight of the ocean, which that night was one
continuous swamp of Jack-o'-lantern phosphorescence, a wild but faint
luminosity mingled with stars and flashes of brilliance, the whole
trooping unanimously eastward, as if in haste with elfin momentous
purpose, a boundless congregation, in the sweep of a strong oceanic
current. I could hear it, in my slumbrous lassitude, struggling and
gurgling at the tied rudder, and making wet sloppy noises under the
sheer of the poop; and I was aware that the _Speranza_ was gliding along
pretty fast, drawn into that procession, probably at the rate of four to
six knots: but I did not care, knowing very well that no land was within
two hundred miles of my bows, for I was in longitude 173°, in the
latitude of Fiji and the Society Islands, between those two: and after a
time the cigar drooped and dropped from my mouth, and sleep overcame
me, and I slept there, in the lap of the Infinite.

       *       *       *       *       *

So that something preserves me, Something, Someone: _and for what?_ ...
If I had slept in the cabin, I must most certainly have perished: for
lying there on the poop, I dreamed a dream which once I had dreamed on
the ice, far, far yonder in the forgotten hyperborean North: that I was
in an Arabian paradise, a Garden of Peaches; and I had a very long
vision of it, for I walked among the trees, and picked the fruit, and
pressed the blossoms to my nostrils with breathless inhalations of love:
till a horrible sickness woke me: and when I opened my eyes, the night
was black, the moon gone down, everything wet with dew, the sky arrayed
with most glorious stars like a thronged bazaar of tiaraed rajahs and
begums with spangled trains, and all the air fragrant with that mortal
scent; and high and wide uplifted before me--stretching from the
northern to the southern limit--a row of eight or nine inflamed smokes,
as from the chimneys of some Cyclopean foundry a-work all night, most
solemn, most great and dreadful in the solemn night: eight or nine, I
should say, or it might be seven, or it might be ten, for I did not
count them; and from those craters puffed up gusts of encrimsoned
material, here a gust and there a gust, with tinselled fumes that
convolved upon themselves, and sparks and flashes, all veiled in a
garish haze of light: for the foundry worked, though languidly; and upon
a rocky land four miles ahead, which no chart had ever marked, the
_Speranza_ drove straight with the current of the phosphorus sea.

As I rose, I fell flat: and what I did thereafter I did in a state of
existence whose acts, to the waking mind, appear unreal as dream. I must
at once, I think, have been conscious that here was the cause of the
destruction of mankind; that it still surrounded its own neighbourhood
with poisonous fumes; and that I was approaching it. I must have somehow
crawled, or dragged myself forward. There is an impression on my mind
that it was a purple land of pure porphyry; there is some faint memory,
or dream, of hearing a long-drawn booming of waves upon its crags: I do
not know whence I have them. I think that I remember retching with
desperate jerks of the travailing intestines; also that I was on my face
as I moved the regulator in the engine-room: but any recollection of
going down the stairs, or of coming up again, I have not. Happily, the
wheel was tied, the rudder hard to port, and as the ship moved, she
must, therefore, have turned; and I must have been back to untie the
wheel in good time, for when my senses came, I was lying there, my head
against the under gimbal, one foot on a spoke of the wheel, no land in
sight, and morning breaking.

This made me so sick, that for either two or three days I lay without
eating in the chair near the wheel, only rarely waking to sufficient
sense to see to it that she was making westward from that place; and on
the morning when I finally roused myself I did not know whether it was
the second or the third morning: so that my calendar, so scrupulously
kept, may be a day out, for to this day I have never been at the pains
to ascertain whether I am here writing now on the 5th or the 6th of
June.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, on the fourth, or the fifth, evening after this, just as the sun
was sinking beyond the rim of the sea, I happened to look where he hung
motionless on the starboard bow: and there I saw a clean-cut black-green
spot against his red--a most unusual sight here and now--a ship: a poor
thing, as it turned out when I got near her, without any sign of mast,
heavily water-logged, some relics of old rigging hanging over, even her
bowsprit apparently broken in the middle (though I could not see it),
and she nothing more than a hirsute green mass of old weeds and
sea-things from bowsprit-tip to poop, and from bulwarks to water-line,
stout as a hedgehog, only awaiting there the next high sea to founder.

It being near my dinner-hour and night's rest, I stopped the _Speranza_
some fifteen yards from her, and commenced to pace my spacious poop, as
usual, before eating; and as I paced, I would glance at her, wondering
at her destiny, and who were the human men that had lived on her, their
Christian names, and family names, their age, and thought, and way of
life, and beards; till the desire arose within me to go to her, and see;
and I threw off my outer garments, uncovered and unroped the cedar
cutter--the only boat, except the air-pinnace, left to me intact--and
got her down by the mizzen five-block pulley-system. But it was a
ridiculous nonsense, for having paddled to her, I was thrown into
paroxysms of rage by repeated failures to scale her bulwarks, low as
they were; my hands, indeed, could reach, but I found no hold upon the
slimy mass, and three rope-ends which I caught were also untenably
slippery: so that I jerked always back into the boat, my clothes a mass
of filth, and the only thought in my blazing brain a twenty-pound
charge of guncotton, of which I had plenty, to blow her to uttermost
Hell. I had to return to the _Speranza_, get a half-inch rope, then back
to the other, for I would not be baulked in such a way, though now the
dark was come, only slightly tempered by a half-moon, and I getting
hungry, and from minute to minute more fiendishly ferocious. Finally, by
dint of throwing, I got the rope-loop round a mast-stump, drew myself
up, and made fast the boat, my left hand cut by some cursed shell: and
all for what? the imperiousness of a whim. The faint moonlight shewed an
ample tract of deck, invisible in most parts under rolled beds of putrid
seaweed, and no bodies, and nothing but a concave, large esplanade of
seaweed. She was a ship of probably 1,500 tons, three-masted, and a
sailer. I got aft (for I had on thick outer babooshes), and saw that
only four of the companion-steps remained; by a small leap, however, I
could descend into that desolation, where the stale sea-stench seemed
concentrated into a very essence of rankness. Here I experienced a
singular ghostly awe and timorousness, lest she should sink with me, or
something: but striking matches, I saw an ordinary cabin, with some
fungoids, skulls, bones and rags, but not one cohering skeleton. In the
second starboard berth was a small table, and on the floor a thick
round ink-pot, whose continual rolling on its side made me look down;
and there I saw a flat square book with black covers, which curved
half-open of itself, for it had been wet and stained. This I took, and
went back to the _Speranza_: for that ship was nothing but an emptiness,
and a stench of the crude elements of life, nearly assimilated now to
the rank deep to which she was wedded, and soon to be absorbed into its
nature and being, to become a sea in little, as I, in time, my God,
shall be nothing but an earth in little.

During dinner, and after, I read the book, with some difficulty, for it
was pen-written in French, and discoloured, and it turned out to be the
journal of someone, a passenger and voyager, I imagine, who called
himself Albert Tissu, and the ship the _Marie Meyer_. There was nothing
remarkable in the narrative that I could see--common-place descriptions
of South Sea scenes, records of weather, cargoes, and the like--till I
came to the last written page: and that was remarkable enough. It was
dated the 13th of April--strange thing, my good God, incredibly
strange--that same day, twenty long years ago, when I reached the Pole;
and the writing on that page was quite different from the neat look of
the rest, proving immoderate excitement, wildest haste; and he heads it
'_Cinq Heures_,'--I suppose in the evening, for he does not say: and he
writes: 'Monstrous event! phenomenon without likeness! the witnesses of
which must for ever live immortalised in the annals of the universe, an
event which will make even Mama, Henri and Juliette admit that I was
justified in undertaking this most eventful voyage. Talking with Captain
Tombarel on the poop, when a sudden exclamation from him--"_Mon Dieu!_"
His visage whitens! I follow the direction of his gaze to eastward! I
behold! eight kilomètres perhaps away--, _ten monstrous waterspouts_,
reaching up, up, high enough--all apparently in one straight line, with
intervals of nine hundred _mètres_, very regularly placed. They do not
wander, dance, nor waver, as waterspouts do; nor are they at all
lily-shaped, like waterspouts: but ten hewn pillars of water, with
uniform diameter from top to bottom, only a little twisted here and
there, and, as I divine, fifty _mètres_ in girth. Five, ten, stupendous
minutes we look, Captain Tombarel mechanically repeating and repeating
under his breath "_Mon Dieu!_" "_Mon Dieu!_" the whole crew now on the
poop, I agitated, but collected, watch in hand. And suddenly, all is
blotted out: the pillars of water, doubtless still there, can no more be
seen: for the ocean all about them is steaming, hissing higher than the
pillars a dense white vapour, vast in extent, whose venomous sibilation
we at this distance can quite distinctly hear. It is affrighting, it is
intolerable! the eyes can hardly bear to watch, the ears to hear! it
seems unholy travail, monstrous birth! But it lasts not long: all at
once the _Marie Meyer_ commences to pitch and roll violently, and the
sea, a moment since calm, is now rough! and at the same time, through
the white vapour, we see a dark shadow slowly rising--the shadow of a
mighty back, a new-born land, bearing upwards ten flames of fire,
slowly, steadily, out of the sea, into the clouds. At the moment when
that sublime emergence ceases, or seems to cease, the grand thought that
smites me is this: "I, Albert Tissu, am immortalised: my name shall
never perish from among men!" I rush down, I write it. The latitude is
16° 21' 13" South; the longitude 176° 58' 19" West[1]. There is a great
deal of running about on the decks--they are descending. There is surely
a strange odour of almonds--I only hope--it is so dark, _mon D_----'

So the Frenchman, Tissu.


[Footnote 1: This must be French reckoning, from meridian of Paris.]

       *       *       *       *       *

With all that region I would have no more to do: for all here, it used
to be said, lies a great sunken continent; and I thought it would be
rising and shewing itself to my eyes, and driving me stark mad: for the
earth is full of these contortions, sudden monstrous grimaces and
apparitions, which are like the face of Medusa, affrighting a man into
spinning stone; and nothing could be more appallingly insecure than
living on a planet.

I did not stop till I had got so far northward as the Philippine
Islands, where I was two weeks--exuberant, odorous places, but so hilly
and rude, that at one place I abandoned all attempt at travelling in the
motor, and left it in a valley by a broad, shallow, noisy river, full of
mossy stones: for I said: 'Here I will live, and be at peace'; and then
I had a fright, for during three days I could not re-discover the river
and the motor, and I was in the greatest despair, thinking: 'When shall
I find my way out of these jungles and vastnesses?' For I was where no
paths were, and had lost myself in deeps where the lure of the earth is
too strong and rank for a single man, since in such places, I suppose, a
man would rapidly be transformed into a tree, or a snake, or a tiger. At
last, however, I found the place, to my great joy, but I would not shew
that I was glad, and to hide it, fell upon a front wheel of the car with
some kicks. I could not make out who the people were that lived here:
for the relics of some seemed quite black, like New Zealand races, and I
could still detect the traces of tattooing, while others suggested
Mongolian types, and some looked like pigmies, and some like whites. But
I cannot detail the two-years' incidents of that voyage: for it is past,
and like a dream: and not to write of that--of all that--have I taken
this pencil in hand after seventeen long, long years.

       *       *       *       *       *

Singular my reluctance to put it on paper. I will write rather of the
voyage to China, and how I landed the motor on the wharf at Tientsin,
and went up the river through a maize and rice-land most charming in
spite of intense cold, I thick with clothes as an Arctic traveller; and
of the three dreadful earthquakes within two weeks; and how the only map
which I had of the city gave no indication of the whereabouts of its
military depositories, and I had to seek for them; and of the three
days' effort to enter them, for every gate was solid and closed; and how
I burned it, but had to observe its flames, without deep pleasure, from
beyond the walls to the south, the whole place being one cursed plain;
yet how, at one moment, I cried aloud with wild banterings and glad
laughters of Tophet to that old Chinaman still alive within it; and how
I coasted, and saw the hairy Ainus, man and woman hairy alike; and how,
lying one midnight awake in my cabin, the _Speranza_ being in a still
glassy water under a cliff overhung by drooping trees--it was the
harbour of Chemulpo--to me lying awake came the thought: 'Suppose now
you should hear a step walking to and fro, leisurely, on the poop above
you--_just suppose'_; and the night of horrors which I had, for I could
not help supposing, and at one time really thought that I heard it: and
how the sweat rolled and poured from my brow; and how I went to
Nagasaki, and burned it; and how I crossed over the great Pacific deep
to San Francisco, for I knew that Chinamen had been there, too, and one
of them might be alive; and how, one calm day, the 15th or the 16th
April, I, sitting by the wheel in the mid-Pacific, suddenly saw a great
white hole that ran and wheeled, and wheeled and ran, in the sea, coming
toward me, and I was aware of the hot breath of a reeling wind, and then
of the hot wind itself, which deep-groaned the sound of the letter _V_,
humming like a billion spinning-tops, and the _Speranza_ was on her
side, sea pouring over her port-bulwarks, and myself in the corner
between deck and taffrail, drowning fast, but unable to stir; but all
was soon past and the white hole in the sea, and the hot spinning-top of
wind, ran wheeling beyond, to the southern horizon, and the _Speranza_
righted herself: so that it was clear that someone wished to destroy me,
for that a typhoon of such vehemence ever blew before I cannot think;
and how I came to San Francisco, and how I burned it, and had my sweets:
for it was mine; and how I thought to pass over the great
trans-continental railway to New York, but would not, fearing to leave
the _Speranza_, lest all the ships in the harbour there should be
wrecked, or rusted, and buried under sea-weed, and turned unto the sea;
and how I went back, my mind all given up now to musings upon the earth
and her ways, and a thought in my soul that I would return to those deep
places of the Filipinas, and become an autochthone--a tree, or a snake,
or a man with snake-limbs, like the old autochthones: but I would not:
for Heaven was in man, too: Earth and Heaven; and how as I steamed round
west again, another winter come, and I now in a mood of dismal
despondencies, on the very brink of the inane abyss and smiling idiotcy,
I saw in the island of Java the great temple of Boro Budor: and like a
tornado, or volcanic event, my soul was changed: for my recent studies
in the architecture of the human race recurred to me with interest, and
three nights I slept in the temple, examining it by day. It is vast,
with that look of solid massiveness which above all characterises the
Japanese and Chinese building, my measurement of its width being 529
feet, and it rises terrace-like in six stories to a height of about 120
or 130 feet: here Buddhist and Brahmin forms are combined into a most
richly-developed whole, with a voluptuousness of tracery that is simply
intoxicating, each of the five off-sets being divided up into an
innumerable series of external niches, containing each a statue of the
sitting Boodh, all surmounted by a number of cupolas, and the whole
crowned by a magnificent dagop: and when I saw this, I had the impulse
to return to my home after so long wandering, and to finish the temple
of temples, and the palace of palaces; and I said: 'I will return, and
build it as a testimony to God.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Save for a time, near Cairo, I did not once stop on that homeward
voyage, but turned into the little harbour at Imbros at a tranquil
sunset on the 7th of March (as I reckon), and I moored the _Speranza_ to
the ring in the little quay, and I raised the battered motor from the
hold with the middle air-engine (battered by the typhoon in the
mid-Pacific, which had broken it from the rope-fastenings and tumbled it
head-over-heels to port), and I went through the windowless
village-street, and up through the plantains and cypresses which I knew,
and the Nile mimosas, and mulberries, and Trebizond palms, and pines,
and acacias, and fig-trees, till the thicket stopped me, and I had to
alight: for in those two years the path had finally disappeared; and on,
on foot, I made my way, till I came to the board-bridge, and leant
there, and looked at the rill; and thence climbed the steep path in the
sward toward that rolling table-land where I had built with many a
groan; and half-way up, I saw the tip of the crane-arm, then the blazing
top of the south pillar, then the shed-roof, then the platform, a
blinking blotch of glory to the watery eyes under the setting sun. But
the tent, and nearly all that it contained, was gone.

       *       *       *       *       *

For four days I would do nothing, simply lying and watching, shirking a
load so huge: but on the fifth morning I languidly began something: and
I had not worked an hour, when a fever took me--to finish it, to finish
it--and it lasted upon me, with only three brief intervals, nearly seven
years; nor would the end have been so long in coming, but for the
unexpected difficulty of getting the four flat roofs water-tight, for I
had to take down half the east one. Finally, I made them of gold slabs
one-and-a-quarter inch thick, smooth on both sides, on each beam double
gutters being fixed along each side of the top flange to catch any
leakage at the joints, which are filled with slaters'-cement. The slabs
are clamped to the top flanges by steel clips, having bolts set with
plaster-of-Paris in holes drilled in the slabs. These clips are 1-1/2
in. by 3/17 in., and are 17 in. apart. The roofs are slightly pitched to
the front edges, where they drain into gold-plated copper-gutters on
plated wrought-iron brackets, with one side flashed up over the blocks,
which raise the slabs from the beam-tops, to clear the joint gutters....
But now I babble again of that base servitude, which I would forget, but
cannot: for every measurement, bolt, ring, is in my brain, like a
burden: but it is past, it is past--and it was vanity.

       *       *       *       *       *

Six months ago to-day it was finished: six months more protracted,
desolate, burdened, than all those sixteen years in which I built.

I wonder what a man--another man--some Shah, or Tsar, of that far-off
past, would say now of me, if eye could rest upon me! With what awe
would he certainly shrink before the wild majesty of these eyes; and
though I am not lunatic--for I am not, I am not--how would he fly me
with the exclamation: 'There is the very lunacy of Pride!'

For there would seem to him--it must be so--in myself, in all about me,
something extravagantly royal, touched with terror. My body has
fattened, and my girth now fills out to a portly roundness its broad
Babylonish girdle of crimson cloth, minutely gold-embroidered, and hung
with silver, copper and gold coins of the Orient; my beard, still black,
sweeps in two divergent sheaves to my hips, flustered by every wind; as
I walk through this palace, the amber-and-silver floor reflects in its
depths my low-necked, short-armed robe of purple, blue, and scarlet,
a-glow with luminous stones. I am ten times crowned Lord and Emperor; I
sit a hundred times enthroned in confirmed, obese old Majesty. Challenge
me who will--challenge me who dare! Among those myriad worlds upon which
I nightly pore, I may have my Peers and Compeers and Fellow-denizens ...
but _here_ I am Sole; Earth acknowledges my ancient sway and hereditary
sceptre: for though she draws me, not yet, not yet, am I hers, but she
is mine. It seems to me not less than a million million aeons since
other beings, more or less resembling me, walked impudently in the open
sunlight on this planet, which is rightly mine--I can indeed no longer
picture to myself, nor even credit, that such a state of things--so
fantastic, so far-fetched, so infinitely droll--could have existed:
though, at bottom, I suppose, I know that it must have been really so.
Up to ten years ago, in fact, I used frequently to dream that there were
others. I would see them walk in the streets like ghosts, and be
troubled, and start awake: but never now could such a thing, I think,
occur to me in sleep: for the wildness of the circumstance would
certainly strike my consciousness, and immediately I should know that
the dream was a dream. For now, at least, I am sole, I am lord. The
golden walls of this palace which I have built look down, enamoured of
their reflection, into a lake of the choicest, purplest wine.

Not that I made it of wine because wine is rare; nor the walls of gold
because gold is rare: that would have been too childish: but because I
would match for beauty a human work with the works of those Others: and
because it happens, by some persistent freak of the earth, that
precisely things most rare and costly are generally the most beautiful.

The vision of glorious loveliness which is this palace now risen before
my eyes cannot be described by pen and paper, though there _may_ be
words in the lexicons of language which, if I sought for them with
inspired wit for sixteen years, as I have built for sixteen years, might
as vividly express my thought on paper, as the stones-of-gold, so
grouped and built, express it to the eye: but, failing such labours and
skill, I suppose I could not give, if there were another man, and I
tried to give, the faintest conception of its celestial charm.

It is a structure positively as clear as the sun, and as fair as the
moon--the sole great human work in the making of which no restraining
thought of cost has played a part: one of its steps alone being of more
cost than all the temples, mosques and besestins, the palaces, pagodas
and cathedrals, built between the ages of the Nimrods and the Napoleons.

The house itself is very small--only 40 ft. long, by 35 broad, by 27
high: yet the structure as a whole is sufficiently enormous, high
uplifted: the rest of the bulk being occupied by the platform, on which
the house stands, each side of this measuring at its base 480 ft., its
height from top to bottom 130 ft, and its top 48 ft. square, the
elevation of the steps being just nearly 30 degrees, and the top reached
from each of the four points of the compass by 183 low long steps, very
massively overlaid with smooth molten gold--not forming a continuous
flight, but broken into threes and fives, sixes and nines, with landings
between the series, these from the top looking like a great terraced
parterre of gold. It is thus an Assyrian palace in scheme: only that the
platform has steps on all sides, instead of on one. The platform-top,
from its edge to the golden walls of the house, is a mosaic consisting
of squares of the glassiest clarified gold, and squares of the glassiest
jet, corner to corner, each square 2 ft. wide. Around the edge of the
platform on top run 48 square plain gold pilasters, 12 on each side, 2
ft. high, tapering upwards, and topped by a knob of solid gold, pierced
with a hole through which passes a lax inch-and-a-half silver chain,
hung with little silver balls which strike together in the breeze. The
mansion consists of an outer court, facing east toward the sea, and the
house proper, which encloses an inner court. The outer court is a hollow
oblong 32 ft. wide by 8 ft. long, the summit of its three walls being
battlemented; they are 18-1/2 ft. in height, or 8-1/2 ft. lower than the
house; around their gold sides, on inside and outside, 3 ft. from the
top, runs a plain flat band of silver, 1 ft. wide, projecting 2/3 in.,
and at the gate, which is a plain Egyptian entrance, facing eastwards,
2-1/2 ft. narrower at top than at bottom, stand the two great square
pillars of massive plain gold, tapering upwards, 45 ft. high, with their
capital of band, closed lotus, and thin plinth; in the outer court,
immediately opposite the gate, is an oblong well, 12 ft. by 3 ft,
reproducing in little the shape of the court, its sides, which are
gold-lined, tapering downward to near the bottom of the platform, where
a conduit of 1/8 in. diameter automatically replenishes the ascertained
mean evaporation of the lake during the year, the well containing
105,360 litres when nearly full, and the lake occupying a circle round
the platform of 980 ft. diameter, with a depth of 3-1/2 ft. Round the
well run pilasters connected by silver chains with little balls, and it
communicates by a 1/8 in. conduit with a pool of wine let into the inner
court, this being fed from eight tall and narrow golden tanks, tapering
upwards, which surround it, each containing a different red wine,
sufficient on the whole to last for all purposes during my lifetime. The
ground of the outer court is also a mosaic of jet and gold: but
thenceforth the jet-squares give place throughout to squares of silver,
and the gold-squares to squares of clear amber, clear as solidified oil.
The entrance is by an Egyptian doorway 7 ft. high, with folding-doors of
gold-plated cedar, opening inwards, surrounded by a very large
projecting coping of plain silver, 3-1/2 ft. wide, severe simplicity of
line throughout enormously multiplying the effect of richness of
material. The interior resembles, I believe, rather a Homeric, than an
Assyrian or Egyptian house--except for the 'galleries,' which are purely
Babylonish and Old Hebrew. The inner court, with its wine-pool and
tanks, is a small oblong of 8 ft. by 9 ft., upon which open four
silver-latticed window-oblongs in the same proportion, and two doors,
before and behind, oblongs in the same proportion. Round this run the
eight walls of the house proper, the inner 10 ft. from the outer, each
parallel two forming a single long corridor-like chamber, except the
front (east) two, which are divided into three apartments; in each side
of the house are six panels of massive plain silver, half-an-inch
thinner in their central space, where are affixed paintings, 22 or else
21 taken at the burning of Paris from a place called 'The Louvre,' and 2
or else 3 from a place in England: so that the panels have the look of
frames, and are surrounded by oval garlands of the palest amethyst,
topaz, sapphire, and turquoise which I could find, each garland being of
only one kind of stone, a mere oval ring two feet wide at the sides and
narrowing to an inch at the top and bottom, without designs. The
galleries are five separate recesses in the outer walls under the roofs,
two in the east façade, and one in the north, south, and west, hung with
pavilions of purple, blue, rose and white silk on rings and rods of
gold, with gold pilasters and banisters, each entered by four steps from
the roof, to which lead, north and south, two spiral stairs of cedar. On
the east roof stands the kiosk, under which is the little lunar
telescope; and from that height, and from the galleries, I can watch
under the bright moonlight of this climate, which is very like
lime-light, the for-ever silent blue hills of Macedonia, and where the
islands of Samothraki, Lemnos, Tenedos slumber like purplish fairies on
the Aegean Sea: for, usually, I sleep during the day, and keep a
night-long vigil, often at midnight descending to bathe my coloured
baths in the lake, and to disport myself in that strange intoxication of
nostrils, eyes, and pores, dreaming long wide-eyed dreams at the bottom,
to return dazed, and weak, and drunken. Or again--_twice_ within these
last void and idle six months--I have suddenly run, bawling out, from
this temple of luxury, tearing off my gaudy rags, to hide in a hut by
the shore, smitten for one intense moment with realisation of the past
of this earth, and moaning: 'alone, alone ... all alone, alone, alone
... alone, alone....' For events precisely resembling eruptions take
place in my brain; and one spangled midnight--ah, how spangled!--I may
kneel on the roof with streaming, uplifted face, with outspread arms,
and awe-struck heart, adoring the Eternal: the next, I may strut like a
cock, wanton as sin, lusting to burn a city, to wallow in filth, and,
like the Babylonian maniac, calling myself the equal of Heaven.

       *       *       *       *       *

But it was not to write of this--of all this--!

Of the furnishing of the palace I have written nothing.... But why I
hesitate to admit to myself what I _know_, is not clear. If They speak
to me, I may surely write of Them: for I do not fear Them, but am Their
peer.

Of the island I have written nothing: its size, climate, form,
vegetation.... There are two winds: a north and a south wind; the north
is cool, and the south is warm; and the south blows during the winter
months, so that sometimes on Christmas-day it is quite hot; and the
north, which is cool, blows from May to September, so that the summer is
hardly ever oppressive, and the climate was made for a king. The
mangal-stove in the south hall I have never once lit.

The length, I should say, is 19 miles; the breadth 10, or thereabouts;
and the highest mountains should reach a height of some 2,000 ft.,
though I have not been all over it. It is very densely wooded in most
parts, and I have seen large growths of wheat and barley, obviously
degenerate now, with currants, figs, valonia, tobacco, vines in rank
abundance, and two marble quarries. From the palace, which lies on a
sunny plateau of beautifully-sloping swards, dotted with the circular
shadows thrown by fifteen huge cedars, and seven planes, I can see on
all sides an edge of forest, with the gleam of a lake to the north, and
in the hollow to the east the rivulet with its little bridge, and a few
clumps and beds of flowers. I can also spy right through----

       *       *       *       *       *

It shall be written now:

I have this day heard within me the contention of the Voices.

       *       *       *       *       *

I thought that they were done with me! That all, all, all, was ended! I
have not heard them for twenty years!

But to-day--distinctly--breaking in with brawling impassioned
suddenness upon my consciousness.... I heard.

This late _far niente_ and vacuous inaction here have been undermining
my spirit; this inert brooding upon the earth; this empty life, and
bursting brain! Immediately after eating at noon to-day, I said to
myself:

'I have been duped by the palace: for I have wasted myself in building,
hoping for peace, and there is no peace. Therefore now I shall fly from
it, to another, sweeter work--not of building, but of destroying--not of
Heaven, but of Hell--not of self-denial, but of reddest orgy.
Constantinople--beware!' I tossed the chair aside, and with a stamp was
on my feet: and as I stood--again, again--I heard: the startlingly
sudden wrangle, the fierce, vulgar outbreak and voluble controversy,
till my consciousness could not hear its ears: and one urged: 'Go! go!'
and the other: 'Not there...! where you like, ... but not there...! for
your life!'

I did not--for I could not--go: I was so overcome. I fell upon the couch
shivering.

These Voices, or impulses, plainly as I felt them of old, quarrel within
me now with an openness new to them. Lately, influenced by my long
scientific habit of thought, I have occasionally wondered whether what I
used to call 'the two Voices' were not in reality two strong
instinctive movements, such as most men may have felt, though with less
force. But to-day doubt is past, doubt is past: nor, unless I be very
mad, can I ever doubt again.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have been thinking, thinking of my life: there is a something which I
cannot understand.

There was a man whom I met once in that dark backward and abysm of time,
when I must have been very young--I fancy at some college or school in
England, and his name now is far enough beyond scope of my memory, lost
in the vast limbo of past things. But he used to talk continually about
certain 'Black' and 'White' Powers, and of their strife for this world.
He was a short man with a Roman nose, and lived in fear of growing a
paunch. His forehead a-top, in profile, was more prominent than the
nose-end, he parted his hair in the middle, and had the theory that the
male form was more beautiful than the female. I forget what his name
was--the dim clear-obscure being. Very profound was the effect of his
words upon me, though, I think, I used to make a point of slighting
them. This man always declared that 'the Black' would carry off the
victory in the end: and so he has, so he has.

But assuming the existence of this 'Black' and this 'White' being--and
supposing it to be a fact that my reaching the Pole had any connection
with the destruction of my race, according to the notions of that
extraordinary Scotch parson--then it must have been the power of '_the
Black_' which carried me, in spite of all obstacles, to the Pole. So far
I can understand.

But _after_ I had reached the Pole, what further use had either White or
Black for me? Which was it--White or Black--that preserved my life
through my long return on the ice--and _why_? It _could_ not have been
'the Black'! For I readily divine that from the moment when I touched
the Pole, the only desire of the Black, which had previously preserved,
must have been to destroy me, with the rest. It must have been 'the
White,' then, that led me back, retarding me long, so that I should not
enter the poison-cloud, and then openly presenting me the _Boreal_ to
bring me home to Europe. But his motive? And the significance of these
recommencing wrangles, after such a silence? This I do not understand!

Curse Them, curse Them, with their mad tangles! I care nothing for Them!
Are there any White Idiots and Black Idiots--_at all_? Or are these
Voices that I hear nothing but the cries of my own strained nerves, and
I all mad and morbid, morbid and mad, mad, my good God?

This inertia here is _not good_ for me! This stalking about the palace!
and long thinkings about Earth and Heaven, Black and White, White and
Black, and things beyond the stars! My brain is like bursting through
the walls of my poor head.

To-morrow, then, to Constantinople.

       *       *       *       *       *

Descending to go to the ship, I had almost reached the middle of the
east platform-steps, when my foot slipped on the smooth gold: and the
fall, though I was not walking carelessly, had, I swear, all the
violence of a fall caused by a push. I struck my head, and, as I rolled
downward, swooned. When I came to myself, I was lying on the very bottom
step, which is thinly washed by the wine-waves: another roll and I
suppose I must have drowned. I sat there an hour, lost in amazement,
then crossed the causeway, came down to the _Speransa_ with the motor,
went through her, spent the day in work, slept on her, worked again
to-day, till four, at both ship and time-fuses (I with only 700 fuses
left, and in Stamboul alone must be 8,000 houses, without counting
Galata, Tophana, Kassim-pacha, Scutari, and the rest), started out at
5.30, and am now at 11 P.M. lying motionless two miles off the north
coast of the island of Marmora, with moonlight gloating on the water, a
faint north breeze, and the little pale land looking immensely
stretched-out, solemn and great, as if that were the world, and there
were nothing else; and the tiny island at its end immense, and the
_Speranza_ vast, and I only little. To-morrow at 11 A.M. I will moor the
_Speranza_ in the Golden Horn at the spot where there is that low damp
nook of the bagnio behind the naval magazines and that hill where the
palace of the Capitan Pacha is.

       *       *       *       *       *

I found that great tangle of ships in the Golden Horn wonderfully
preserved, many with hardly any moss-growths. This must be due, I
suppose, to the little Ali-Bey and Kezat-Hanah, which flow into the Horn
at the top, and made no doubt a constant current.

Ah, I remember the place: long ago I lived here some months, or, it may
be, years. It is the fairest of cities--and the greatest. I believe that
London in England was larger: but no city, surely, ever _seemed_ so
large. But it is flimsy, and will burn like tinder. The houses are made
of light timber, with interstices filled by earth and bricks, and some
of them look ruinous already, with their lovely faded tints of green
and gold and red and blue and yellow, like the hues of withered flowers:
for it is a city of paints and trees, and all in the little winding
streets, as I write, are volatile almond-blossoms, mixed with
maple-blossoms, white with purple. Even the most splendid of the
Sultan's palaces are built in this combustible way: for I believe that
they had a notion that stone-building was presumptuous, though I have
seen some very thick stone-houses in Galata. This place, I remember,
lived in a constant state of sensation on account of nightly flares-up;
and I have come across several tracts already devastated by fires. The
ministers-of-state used to attend them, and if the fire would not go
out, the Sultan himself was obliged to be there, in order to encourage
the firemen. Now it will burn still better.

But I have been here six weeks, and still no burning: for the place
seems to plead with me, it is so ravishing, so that I do not know why I
did not live here, and spare my toils during those sixteen nightmare
years; for two whole weeks the impulse to burn was quieted; and since
then there has been an irritating whisper at my ear which said: 'It is
not really like the great King that you are, this burning, but like a
foolish child, or a savage, who liked to see fireworks: or at least, if
you must burn, do not burn poor Constantinople, which is so charming,
and so very old, with its balsamic perfumes, and the blossomy trees of
white and light-purple peeping over the walls of the cloistered painted
houses, and all those lichened tombs--those granite menhirs and regions
of ancient marble tombs between the quarters, Greek tombs, Byzantine,
Jew, Mussulman tombs, with their strange and sacred
inscriptions--overwaved by their cypresses and vast plane-trees.' And
for weeks I would do nothing: but roamed about, with two minds in me,
under the tropic brilliance of the sky by day, and the vast dreamy
nights of this place that are like nights seen through azure-tinted
glasses, and in each of them is not one night, but the thousand-and-one
long crowded nights of glamour and fancy: for I would sit on the immense
esplanade of the Seraskierat, or the mighty grey stones of the porch of
the mosque of Sultan Mehmed-fatih, dominating from its great steps all
old Stamboul, and watch the moon for hours and hours, so passionately
bright she soared through clear and cloud, till I would be smitten with
doubt of my own identity, for whether I were she, or the earth, or
myself, or some other thing or man, I did not know, all being so silent
alike, and all, except myself, so vast, the Seraskierat, and the
Suleimanieh, and Stamboul, and the Marmora Sea, and the earth, and
those argent fields of the moon, all large alike compared with me, and
measure and space were lost, and I with them.

       *       *       *       *       *

These proud Turks died stolidly, many of them. In streets of
Kassim-pacha, in crowded Taxim on the heights of Pera, and under the
long Moorish arcades of Sultan-Selim, I have seen the open-air barber's
razor with his bones, and with him the half-shaved skull of the
faithful, and the long two-hours' narghile with traces of burnt tembaki
and haschish still in the bowl. Ashes now are they all, and dry yellow
bone; but in the houses of Phanar and noisy old Galata, and in the Jew
quarter of Pri-pacha, the black shoe and head-dress of the Greek is
still distinguishable from the Hebrew blue. It was a mixed ritual of
colours here in boot and hat: yellow for Mussulman, red boots, black
calpac for Armenian, for the Effendi a white turban, for the Greek a
black. The Tartar skull shines from under a high taper calpac, the
Nizain-djid's from a melon-shaped head-piece; the Imam's and Dervish's
from a grey conical felt; and there is here and there a Frank in
European rags. I have seen the towering turban of the Bashi-bazouk, and
his long sword, and some softas in the domes on the great wall of
Stamboul, and the beggar, and the street-merchant with large tray of
water-melons, sweetmeats, raisins, sherbet, and the bear-shewer, and the
Barbary organ, and the night-watchman who evermore cried 'Fire!' with
his long lantern, two pistols, dirk, and wooden javelin. Strange how all
that old life has come back to my fancy now, pretty vividly, and for the
first time, though I have been here several times lately. I have gone
out to those plains beyond the walls with their view of rather barren
mountain-peaks, the city looking nothing but minarets shooting through
black cypress-tops, and I seemed to see the wild muezzin at some summit,
crying the midday prayer: '_Mohammed Resoul Allah!_'--the wild man; and
from that great avenue of cypresses which traverses the cemetery of
Scutari, the walled city of Stamboul lay spread entire up to Phanar and
Eyoub in their cypress-woods before me, the whole embowered now in
trees, all that complexity of ways and dark alleys with overhanging
balconies of old Byzantine houses, beneath which a rider had to stoop
the head, where old Turks would lose their way in mazes of the
picturesque; and on the shaded Bosphorus coast, to Foundoucli and
beyond, some peeping yali, snow-white palace, or old Armenian cot; and
the Seraglio by the sea, a town within a town; and southward the Sea of
Marmora, blue-and-white, and vast, and fresh as a sea just born,
rejoicing at its birth and at the jovial sun, all brisk, alert, to the
shadowy islands afar: and as I looked, I suddenly said aloud a wild, mad
thing, my God, a wild and maniac thing, a shrieking maniac thing for
Hell to laugh at: for something said with my tongue: '_This city is not
quite dead._'

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

Three nights I slept in Stamboul itself at the palace of some sanjak-bey
or emir, or rather dozed, with one slumbrous eye that would open to
watch my visitors Sinbad, and Ali Baba, and old Haroun, to see how they
slumbered and dozed: for it was in the small luxurious chamber where the
bey received those speechless all-night visits of the Turks, long rosy
hours of perfumed romance, and drunkenness of the fancy, and visionary
languor, sinking toward morning into the yet deeper peace of dreamless
sleep; and there, still, were the white _yatags_ for the guests to sit
cross-legged on for the waking dream, and to fall upon for the final
swoon, and the copper brazier still scenting of essence-of-rose, and the
cushions, rugs, hangings, the monsters on the wall, the
haschish-chibouques, narghiles, hookahs, and drugged pale cigarettes,
and a secret-looking lattice beyond the door, painted with trees and
birds; and the air narcotic and grey with the pastilles which I had
burned, and the scented smokes which I had smoked; and I all drugged and
mumbling, my left eye suspicious of Ali there, and Sinbad, and old
Haroun, who dozed. And when I had slept, and rose to wash in a room near
the overhanging latticed balcony of the façade, before me to the north
lay old Galata in sunshine, and that steep large street mounting to
Pera, once full at every night-fall of divans on which grave dervishes
smoked narghiles, and there was no space for passage, for all was
divans, lounges, almond-trees, heaven-high hum, chibouques in forests,
the dervish, and the innumerable porter, the horse-hirer with his horse
from Tophana, and arsenal-men from Kassim, and traders from Galata, and
artillery-workmen from Tophana; and on the other side of the house, the
south end, a covered bridge led across a street, which consisted mostly
of two immense blind walls, into a great tangled wilderness of flowers,
which was the harem-garden, where I passed some hours; and here I might
have remained many days, many weeks perhaps, but that, dozing one
fore-day with those fancied others, it was as if there occurred a laugh
somewhere, and a thing said: 'But this city is not quite dead!' waking
me from deeps of peace to startled wakefulness. And I thought to myself:
'If it be not quite dead, it _will_ be soon--and with some suddenness!'
And the next morning I was at the Arsenal.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is long since I have so deeply enjoyed, even to the marrow. It may be
'the White' who has the guardianship of my life: but assuredly it is
'the Black' who reigns in my soul.

Grandly did old Stamboul, Galata, Tophana, Kassim, right out beyond the
walls to Phanar and Eyoub, blaze and burn. The whole place, except one
little region of Galata, was like so much tinder, and in the five hours
between 8 P.M. and 1 A.M. all was over. I saw the tops of those vast
masses of cemetery-cypresses round the tombs of the Osmanlis outside the
walls, and those in the cemetery of Kassim, and those round the sacred
mosque of Eyoub, shrivel away instantaneously, like flimsy hair caught
by a flame; I saw the Genoese tower of Galata go heading obliquely on an
upward curve, like Sir Roger de Coverley and wild rockets, and burst
high, high, with a report; in pairs, and threes, and fours, I saw the
blue cupolas of the twelve or fourteen great mosques give in and
subside, or soar and rain, and the great minarets nod the head, and
topple; and I saw the flames reach out and out across the empty breadth
of the Etmeidan--three hundred yards--to the six minarets of the Mosque
of Achmet, wrapping the red Egyptian-granite obelisk in the centre; and
across the breadth of the Serai-Meidani it reached to the buildings of
the Seraglio and the Sublime Porte; and across those vague barren
stretches that lie between the houses and the great wall; and across the
seventy or eighty great arcaded bazaars, all-enwrapping, it reached; and
the spirit of fire grew upon me: for the Golden Horn itself was a tongue
of fire, crowded, west of the galley-harbour, with exploding
battleships, Turkish frigates, corvettes, brigs--and east, with tens of
thousands of feluccas, caiques, gondolas and merchantmen aflame. On my
left burned all Scutari; and between six and eight in the evening I had
sent out thirty-seven vessels under low horse-powers of air, with trains
and fuses laid for 11 P.M., to light with their wandering fires the Sea
of Marmora. By midnight I was encompassed in one great furnace and fiery
gulf, all the sea and sky inflamed, and earth a-flare. Not far from me
to the left I saw the vast Tophana barracks of the Cannoniers, and the
Artillery-works, after long reluctance and delay, take wing together;
and three minutes later, down by the water, the barrack of the
Bombardiers and the Military School together, grandly, grandly; and
then, to the right, in the valley of Kassim, the Arsenal: these
occupying the sky like smoky suns, and shedding a glaring day over many
a mile of sea and land; I saw the two lines of ruddier flaring where the
barge-bridge and the raft-bridge over the Golden Horn made haste to
burn; and all that vastness burned with haste, quicker and quicker--to
fervour--to fury--to unanimous rabies: and when its red roaring stormed
the infinite, and the might of its glowing heart was Gravitation, Being,
Sensation, and I its compliant wife--then my head nodded, and with
crooked lips I sighed as it were my last sigh, and tumbled, weak and
drunken, upon my face.

       *       *       *       *       *

       *       *       *       *       *

O wild Providence! Unfathomable madness of Heaven! that ever I should
write what now I write! I will not write it....

       *       *       *       *       *

The hissing of it! It is only a crazy dream! a tearing-out of the hair
by the roots to scatter upon the raving storms of Saturn! My hand will
not write it!

       *       *       *       *       *

In God's name----! During four nights after the burning I slept in a
house--French as I saw by the books, &c., probably the Ambassador's, for
it has very large gardens and a beautiful view over the sea, situated on
the rapid east declivity of Pera; it is one of the few large houses
which, for my safety, I had left standing round the minaret whence I had
watched, this minaret being at the top of the old Mussulman quarter on
the heights of Taxim, between Pera proper and Foundoucli. At the bottom,
both at the quay of Foundoucli, and at that of Tophana, I had left under
shelter two caiques for double safety, one a Sultan's gilt craft, with
gold spur at the prow, and one a boat of those zaptias that used to
patrol the Golden Horn as water-police: by one or other of these I meant
to reach the _Speranza_, she being then safely anchored some distance up
the Bosphorus coast. So, on the fifth morning I set out for the Tophana
quay; but a light rain had fallen over-night, and this had re-excited
the thin grey smoke resembling quenched steam, which, as from some
reeking province of Abaddon, still trickled upward over many a square
mile of blackened tract, though of flame I could see no sign. I had not
accordingly advanced far over every sort of _débris_, when I found my
eyes watering, my throat choked, and my way almost blocked by roughness:
whereupon I said: 'I will turn back, cross the region of tombs and
barren waste behind Pera, descend the hill, get the zaptia boat at the
Foundoucli quay, and so reach the _Speranza_.'

Accordingly, I made my way out of the region of smoke, passed beyond the
limits of smouldering ruin and tomb, and soon entered a rich woodland,
somewhat scorched at first, but soon green and flourishing as the
jungle. This cooled and soothed me, and being in no hurry to reach the
ship, I was led on and on, in a somewhat north-western direction, I
fancy. Somewhere hereabouts, I thought, was the place they called 'The
Sweet Waters,' and I went on with the vague notion of coming upon them,
thinking to pass the day, till afternoon, in the forest. Here nature, in
only twenty years has returned to an exuberant savagery, and all was now
the wildest vegetation, dark dells, rills wimpling through deep-brown
shade of sensitive mimosa, large pendulous fuchsia, palm, cypress,
mulberry, jonquil, narcissus, daffodil, rhododendron, acacia, fig. Once
I stumbled upon a cemetery of old gilt tombs, absolutely overgrown and
lost, and thrice caught glimpses of little trellised yalis choked in
boscage. With slow and listless foot I went, munching an almond or an
olive, though I could swear that olives were not formerly indigenous to
any soil so northern: yet here they are now, pretty plentiful, though
elementary, so that modifications whose end I cannot see are certainly
proceeding in everything, some of the cypresses which I met that day
being immense beyond anything I ever heard of: and the thought, I
remember, was in my head, that if a twig or leaf should change into a
bird, or a fish with wings, and fly before my eyes, what then should I
do? and I would eye a branch suspiciously anon. After a long time I
penetrated into a very sombre grove. The day outside the wood was
brilliant and hot, and very still, the leaves and flowers here all
motionless. I seemed, as it were, to hear the vacant silence of the
world, and my foot treading on a twig, produced the report of pistols. I
presently reached a glade in a thicket, about eight yards across, that
had a scent of lime and orange, where the just-sufficient twilight
enabled me to see some old bones, three skulls, and the edge of a
tam-tam peeping from a tuft of wild corn with corn-flowers, and here and
there some golden champac, and all about a profusion of musk-roses. I
had stopped--_why_ I do not recollect--perhaps thinking that if I was
not getting to the Sweet Waters, I should seriously set about finding my
way out. And as I stood looking about me, I remember that some cruising
insect trawled near my ear its lonely drone.

Suddenly, God knows, I started, I started.

I imagined--I dreamed--that I saw a pressure in a bed of moss and
violets, _recently made!_ And while I stood gloating upon that
impossible thing, I imagined--I dreamed--the lunacy of it!--that I heard
a laugh...! the laugh, my good God, of a human soul.

Or it seemed half a laugh, and half a sob: and it passed from me in one
fleeting instant.

Laughs, and sobs, and idiot hallucinations, I had often heard before,
feet walking, sounds behind me: and even as I had heard them, I had
known that they were nothing. But brief as was this impression, it was
yet so thrillingly _real_, that my poor heart received, as it were, the
very shock of death, and I fell backward into a mass of moss, supported
on the right palm, while the left pressed my working bosom; and there,
toiling to catch my breath, I lay still, all my soul focussed into my
ears. But now I could hear no sound, save only the vast and audible hum
of the silence of the universe.


There was, however, the foot-print. If my eye and ear should so
conspire against me, that, I thought, was hard.

Still I lay, still, in that same pose, without a stir, sick and
dry-mouthed, infirm and languishing, with dying breaths: but keen,
keen--and malign.

I would wait, I said to myself, I would be artful as snakes, though so
woefully sick and invalid: I would make no sound....

After some minutes I became conscious that my eyes were leering--leering
in one fixed direction: and instantly, the mere fact that I had a sense
of direction proved to me that I must, _in truth_, have heard something!
I strove--I managed--to raise myself: and as I stood upright, feebly
swaying there, not the terrors of death alone were in my breast, but the
authority of the monarch was on my brow.

I moved: I found the strength.

Slow step by slow step, with daintiest noiselessness, I moved to a
thread of moss that from the glade passed into the thicket, and along
its winding way I stepped, in the direction of the sound. Now my ears
caught the purling noise of a brooklet, and following the moss-path, I
was led into a mass of bush only two or three feet higher than my head.
Through this, prowling like a stealthy cat, I wheedled my painful way,
emerged upon a strip of open long-grass, and now was faced, three yards
before me, by a wall of acacia-trees, prickly-pear and pichulas, between
which and a forest beyond I spied a gleam of running water.

On hands and knees I crept toward the acacia-thicket, entered it a
little, and leaning far forward, peered. And there--at once--ten yards
to my right--I saw.

Singular to say, my agitation, instead of intensifying to the point of
apoplexy and death, now, at the actual sight, subsided to something very
like calmness. With malign and sullen eye askance I stood, and steadily
I watched her there.

       *       *       *       *       *

She was on her knees, her palms lightly touching the ground, supporting
her. At the edge of the streamlet she knelt, and she was looking with a
species of startled shy astonishment at the reflexion of her face in the
limpid brown water. And I, with sullen eye askance regarded her a good
ten minutes' space.

       *       *       *       *       *

I believe that her momentary laugh and sob, which I had heard, was the
result of surprise at seeing her own image; and I firmly believe, from
the expression of her face, that this was the first time that she had
seen it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Never, I thought, as I stood moodily gazing, had I seen on the earth a
creature so fair (though, analysing now at leisure, I can quite conclude
that there was nothing at all remarkable about her good looks). Her
hair, somewhat lighter than auburn, and frizzy, was a real garment to
her nakedness, covering her below the hips, some strings of it falling,
too, into the water: her eyes, a dark blue, were wide in a most silly
expression of bewilderment. Even as I eyed and eyed her, she slowly
rose: and at once I saw in all her manner an air of unfamiliarity with
the world, as of one wholly at a loss what to do. Her pupils did not
seem accustomed to light; and I could swear that that was the first day
in which she had seen a tree or a stream.

Her age appeared eighteen or twenty. I guessed that she was of
Circassian blood, or, at least, origin. Her skin was whitey-brown, or
old ivory-white.

       *       *       *       *       *

She stood up motionless, at a loss. She took a lock of her hair, and
drew it through her lips. There was some look in her eyes, which I
could plainly see now, somehow indicating wild hunger, though the wood
was full of food. After letting go her hair, she stood again feckless
and imbecile, with sideward-hung head, very pitiable to see I think now,
though no faintest pity touched me then. It was clear that she did not
at all know what to make of the look of things. Finally, she sat on a
moss-bank, reached and took a musk-rose on her palm, and looked
hopelessly at it.

       *       *       *       *       *

One minute after my first actual sight of her my extravagance of
agitation, I say, died down to something like calm. The earth was mine
by old right: I felt that: and this creature a mere slave upon whom,
without heat or haste, I might perform my will: and for some time I
stood, coolly enough considering what that will should be.

I had at my girdle the little cangiar, with silver handle encrusted with
coral, and curved blade six inches long, damascened in gold, and sharp
as a razor; the blackest and the basest of all the devils of the Pit was
whispering in my breast with calm persistence: 'Kill, kill--and eat.'

_Why_ I should have killed her I do not know. That question I now ask
myself. It must be true, true that it is '_not good_' for man to be
alone. There was a religious sect in the Past which called itself
'Socialist': and with these must have been the truth, man being at his
best and highest when most social, and at his worst and lowest when
isolated: for the Earth gets hold of all isolation, and draws it, and
makes it fierce, base, and materialistic, like sultans, aristocracies,
and the like: but Heaven is where two or three are gathered together. It
may be so: I do not know, nor care. But I know that after twenty years
of solitude on a planet the human soul is more enamoured of solitude
than of life, shrinking like a tender nerve from the rough intrusion of
Another into the secret realm of Self: and hence, perhaps, the
bitterness with which solitary castes, Brahmins, patricians,
aristocracies, always resisted any attempt to invade their
slowly-acquired domain of privileges. Also, it may be true, it may, it
may, that after twenty years of solitary selfishness, a man becomes,
without suspecting it--not at all noticing the slow stages--a real and
true beast, a horrible, hideous beast, mad, prowling, like that King of
Babylon, his nails like birds' claws, and his hair like eagles'
feathers, with instincts all inflamed and fierce, delighting in
darkness and crime for their own sake. I do not know, nor care: but I
know that, as I drew the cangiar, the basest and the slyest of all the
devils was whispering me, tongue in cheek: 'Kill, kill--and be merry.'

With excruciating slowness, like a crawling glacier, tender as a nerve
of the touching leaves, I moved, I stole, obliquely toward her through
the wall of bush, the knife behind my back. Once only there was a
restraint, a check: I felt myself held back: I had to stop: for one of
the ends of my divided beard had caught in a limb of prickly-pear.

I set to disentangling it: and it was, I believe, at the moment of
succeeding that I first noticed the state of the sky, a strip of which I
could see across the rivulet: a minute or so before it had been pretty
clear, but now was busy with hurrying clouds. It was a sinister
muttering of thunder which had made me glance upward.

When my eyes returned to the sitting figure, she was looking foolishly
about the sky with an expression which almost proved that she had never
before heard that sound of thunder, or at least had no idea what it
could bode. My fixed regard lost not one of her movements, while inch by
inch, not breathing, careful as the poise of a balance, I crawled. And
suddenly, with a rush, I was out in the open, running her down....

She leapt: perhaps two, perhaps three, paces she fled: then stock still
she stood--within some four yards of me--with panting nostrils, with
enquiring face.

I saw it all in one instant, and in one instant all was over. I had not
checked the impetus of my run at her stoppage, and I was on the point of
reaching her with uplifted knife, when I was suddenly checked and
smitten by a stupendous violence: a flash of blinding light, attracted
by the steel which I held, struck tingling through my frame, and at the
same time the most passionate crash of thunder that ever shocked a poor
human ear felled me to the ground. The cangiar, snatched from my hand,
fell near the girl's foot.

I did not entirely lose consciousness, though, surely, the Powers no
longer hide themselves from me, and their close contact is too
intolerably rough and vigorous for a poor mortal man. During, I should
think, three or four minutes, I lay so astounded under that bullying cry
of wrath, that I could not move a finger. When at last I did sit up, the
girl was standing near me, with a sort of smile, holding out to me the
cangiar in a pouring rain.

I took it from her, and my doddering fingers dropped it into the
stream.

       *       *       *       *       *

Pour, pour came the rain, raining as it can in this place, not long, but
a deluge while it lasts, dripping in thick-liquidity, like a profuse
sweat, through the forest, I seeking to get back by the way I had come,
flying, but with difficulty and slowness, and a feeling in me that I was
being tracked. And so it proved: for when I struck into more open space,
nearly opposite the west walls, but now on the north side of the Golden
Horn, where there is a flat grassy ground somewhere between the valley
of Kassim and Charkoi, with horror I saw that _protégée_ of Heaven, or
of someone, not ten yards behind, following me like a mechanical figure,
it being now near three in the afternoon, and the rain drenching me
through, and I tired and hungry, and from all the ruins of
Constantinople not one whiff of smoke ascending.

I trudged on wearily till I came to the quay of Foundoucli, and the
zaptia boat; and there she was with me still, her hair nothing but a
thin drowned string down her back.

       *       *       *       *       *

Not only can she not speak to me in any language that I know: but she
can speak in _no_ language: it is my firm belief that she has _never_
spoken.

She never saw a boat, or water, or the world, till now--I could swear
it. She came into the boat with me, and sat astern, clinging for dear
life to the gunwale by her finger-nails, and I paddled the eight hundred
yards to the _Speranza_, and she came up to the deck after me. When she
saw the open water, the boat, the yalis on the coast, and then the ship,
astonishment was imprinted on her face. But she appears to know little
fear. She smiled like a child, and on the ship touched this and that, as
if each were a living thing.

It was only here and there that one could see the ivory-brown colour of
her skin: the rest was covered with dirt, like old bottles long lying in
cellars.

By the time we reached the _Speranza_, the rain suddenly stopped: I went
down to my cabin to change my clothes, and had to shut the door in her
face to keep her out. When I opened it, she was there, and she followed
me to the windlass, when I went to set the anchor-engine going. I
intended, I suppose, to take her to Imbros, where she might live in one
of the broken-down houses of the village. But when the anchor was not
yet half up, I stopped the engine, and let the chain run again. For I
said, 'No, I will be alone, I am not a child.'

I knew that she was hungry by the look in her eyes: but I cared nothing
for that. I was hungry, too: and that was all I cared about.

I would not let her be there with me another instant. I got down into
the boat, and when she followed, I rowed her back all the way past
Foundoucli and the Tophana quay to where one turns into the Golden Horn
by St. Sophia, around the mouth of the Horn being a vast semicircle of
charred wreckage, carried out by the river-currents. I went up the steps
on the Galata side before one comes to where the barge-bridge was. When
she had followed me on to the embankment, I walked up one of those
rising streets, very encumbered now with stone-_débris_ and ashes, but
still marked by some standing black wall-fragments, it being now not far
from night, but the air as clear and washed as the translucency of a
great purple diamond with the rain and the afterglow of the sun, and all
the west aflame.

When I was about a hundred yards up in this old mixed quarter of Greeks,
Turks, Jews, Italians, Albanians, and noise and cafedjis and
wine-bibbing, having turned two corners, I suddenly gathered my skirts,
spun round, and, as fast as I could, was off at a heavy trot back to
the quay. She was after me, but being taken by surprise, I suppose, was
distanced a little at first. However, by the time I could scurry myself
down into the boat, she was so near, that she only saved herself from
the water by a balancing stoppage at the brink, as I pushed off. I then
set out to get back to the ship, muttering: 'You can have Turkey, if you
like, and I will keep the rest of the world.'

I rowed sea-ward, my face toward her, but steadily averted, for I would
not look her way to see what she was doing. However, as I turned the
point of the quay, where the open sea washes quite rough and loud, to go
northward and disappear from her, I heard a babbling cry--the first
sound which she had uttered. I did look then: and she was still quite
near me, for the silly maniac had been running along the embankment,
following me.

'Little fool!' I cried out across the water, 'what are you after now?'
And, oh my good God, shall I ever forget that strangeness, that wild
strangeness, of my own voice, addressing on this earth another human
soul?

There she stood, whimpering like an abandoned dog after me. I turned the
boat, rowed, came to the first steps, landed, and struck her two
stinging slaps, one on each cheek. While she cowered, surprised no
doubt, I took her by the hand, led her back to the boat, landed on the
Stamboul side, and set off, still leading her, my object being to find
some sort of possible edifice near by, not hopelessly burned, in which
to leave her: for in all Galata there was plainly none, and Pera, I
thought, was too far to walk to. But it would have been better if I had
gone to Pera, for we had to walk quite three miles from Seraglio Point
all along the city battlements to the Seven-towers, she picking her
bare-footed way after me through the great Sahara of charred stuff, and
night now well arrived, and the moon a-drift in the heaven, making the
desolate lonesomeness of the ruins tenfold desolate, so that my heart
smote me then with bitterness and remorse, and I had a vision of myself
that night which I will not put down on paper. At last, however, pretty
late in the evening, I spied a large mansion with green lattice-work
façade, and shaknisier, and terrace-roof, which had been hidden from me
by the arcades of a bazaar, a vast open space at about the centre of
Stamboul, one of the largest of the bazaars, I should think, in the
middle of which stood the mansion, probably the home of pasha or vizier:
for it had a very distinguished look in that place. It seemed very
little hurt, though the vegetation that had apparently choked the great
open space was singed to a black fluff, among which lay thousands of
calcined bones of man, horse, ass, and camel, for all was distinct in
the bright, yet so pensive and forlorn, moonlight, which was that
Eastern moonlight of pure astral mystery which illumines Persepolis, and
Babylon, and ruined cities of the old Anakim.

The house, I knew, would contain divans, _yatags_, cushions, foods,
wines, sherbets, henna, saffron, mastic, raki, haschish, costumes, and a
hundred luxuries still good. There was an outer wall, but the foliage
over it had been singed away, and the gate all charred. It gave way at a
push from my palm. The girl was close behind me. I next threw open a
little green lattice-door in the façade under the shaknisier, and
entered. Here it was dark, and the moment that she, too, was within, I
slipped out quickly, slammed the door in her face, and hooked it upon
her by a little hook over the latch.

I now walked some yards beyond the court, then stopped, listening for
her expected cry: but all was still: five minutes--ten--I waited: but no
sound. I then continued my morose and melancholy way, hollow with
hunger, intending to start that night for Imbros.

But this time I had hardly advanced twenty steps, when I heard a frail
and strangled cry, apparently in mid-air behind me, and glancing, saw
the creature lying at the gateway, a white thing in black stubble-ashes.
She had evidently jumped, well outward, from a small casement of lattice
on a level with the little shaknisier grating, through which once peeped
bright eyes, thirty feet aloft.

I hardly believe that she was conscious of any danger in jumping, for
all the laws of life are new to her, and, having sought and found the
opening, she may have merely come with blind instinctiveness after me,
taking the first way open to her. I walked back, pulled at her arm, and
found that she could not stand. Her face was screwed with silent
pain--she did not moan. Her left foot, I could see, was bleeding: and by
the wounded ankle I took her, and dragged her so through the ashes
across the narrow court, and tossed her like a little dog with all my
force within the door, cursing her.

Now I would not go back the long way to the ship, but struck a match,
and went lighting up girandoles, cressets, candelabra, into a confusion
of lights among great numbers of pale-tinted pillars, rose and azure,
with verd-antique, olive, and Portoro marble, and serpentine. The
mansion was large, I having to traverse quite a desert of embroidered
brocade-hangings, slender columns, and Broussa silks, till I saw a
stair-case doorway behind a Smyrna _portière_, went up, and wandered
some time in a house of gilt-barred windows, with very little furniture,
but palatial spaces, solitary huge pieces of _faïence_ of inestimable
age, and arms, my footfalls quite stifled in the Persian carpeting. I
passed through a covered-in hanging-gallery, with one window-grating
overlooking an inner court, and by this entered the harem, which
declared itself by a greater luxury, bric-à-bracerie, and profusion of
manner. Here, descending a short curved stair behind a _portière_, I
came into a marble-paved sort of larder, in which was an old negress in
blue dress, her hair still adhering, and an infinite supply of
sweetmeats, French preserved foods, sherbets, wines, and so on. I put a
number of things into a pannier, went up again, found some of those
exquisite pale cigarettes which drunken in the hollow of an emerald,
also a jewelled two-yard-long chibouque, and tembaki: and with all
descended by another stair, and laid them on the steps of a little
raised kiosk of green marble in a corner of the court; went up again,
and brought down a still-snowy _yatag_ to sleep on; and there, by the
kiosk-step, ate and passed the night, smoking for several hours in a
state of languor. In the centre of the court is a square marble well,
looking white through a rankness of wild vine, acacias in flower, weeds,
jasmines, and roses, which overgrew it, as well as the kiosk and the
whole court, climbing even the four-square arcade of Moorish arches
round the open space, under one of which I had deposited a long lantern
of crimson silk: for here no breath of the fire had come. About two in
morning I fell to sleep, a deeper peace of shadow now reigning where so
long the melancholy silver of the moon had lingered.

       *       *       *       *       *

About eight in the morning I rose and made my way to the front,
intending that that should be my last night in this ruined place: for
all the night, sleeping and waking, the thing which had happened filled
my brain, growing from one depth of incredibility to a deeper, so that
at last I arrived at a sort of certainty that it could be nothing but a
drunken dream: but as I opened my eyes afresh, the deep-cutting
realisation of that impossibility smote like a pang of lightning-stroke
through my being: and I said: 'I will go again to the far Orient, and
forget': and I started out from the court, not knowing what had become
of her during the night, till, having reached the outer chamber, with a
wild start I saw her lying there at the door in the very spot where I
had flung her, asleep sideways, head on arm ... Softly, softly, I stept
over her, got out, and went running at a cautious clandestine trot. The
morning was in high _fête_, most fresh and pure, and to breathe was to
be young, and to see such a sunlight lighten even upon ruin so vast was
to be blithe. After running two hundred yards to one of the great broken
bazaar-portals, I looked back to see if I was followed: but all that
space was desolately empty. I then walked on past the arch, on which a
green oblong, once inscribed, as usual, with some text in gilt
hieroglyphs, is still discernible; and, emerging, saw the great panorama
of destruction, a few vast standing walls, with hollow Oriental windows
framing deep sky beyond, and here and there a pillar, or half-minaret,
and down within the walls of the old Seraglio still some leafless,
branchless trunks, and in Eyoub and Phanar leafless forests, and on the
northern horizon Pera with the steep upper-half of the Iani-Chircha
street still there, and on the height the European houses, and all
between blackness, stones, a rolling landscape of ravine, like the hilly
pack-ice of the North if its snow were ink, and to the right Scutari,
black, laid low, with its vast region of tombs, and rare stumps of its
forests, and the blithe blue sea, with the widening semicircle of
floating _débris_, looking like brown foul scum at some points,
congested before the bridgeless Golden Horn: for I stood pretty high in
the centre of Stamboul somewhere in the region of the Suleimanieh, or of
Sultan-Selim, as I judged, with immense purviews into abstract distances
and mirage. And to me it seemed too vast, too lonesome, and after
advancing a few hundred yards beyond the bazaar, I turned again.

       *       *       *       *       *

I found the girl still asleep at the house-door, and stirring her with
my foot, woke her. She leapt up with a start of surprise, and a
remarkable sinuous agility, and gazed an astounded moment at me, till,
separating reality from dream and habit, she realised me: but
immediately subsided to the floor again, being in evident pain. I pulled
her up, and made her limp after me through several halls to the inner
court, and the well, where I set her upon the weedy margin, took her
foot in my lap, examined it, drew water, washed it, and bandaged it with
a strip torn from my caftan-hem, now and again speaking gruffly to her,
so that she might no more follow me.

After this, I had breakfast by the kiosk-steps, and when I was
finished, put a mass of truffled _foie gras_ on a plate, brushed through
the thicket to the well, and gave it her. She took it, but looked
foolish, not eating. I then, with my forefinger, put a little into her
mouth, whereupon she set hungrily to eat it all. I also gave her some
ginger-bread, a handful of bonbons, some Krishnu wine, and some
anisette.

I then started out afresh, gruffly bidding her stay there, and left her
sitting on the well, her hair falling down the opening, she peering
after me through the bushes. But I had not half reached the ogival
bazaar-portal, when looking anxiously back, I saw that she was limping
after me. So that this creature tracks me in the manner of a nutshell
following about in the wake of a ship.

I turned back with her to the house, for it was necessary that I should
plan some further method of eluding her. That was five days ago, and
here I have stayed: for the house and court are sufficiently agreeable,
and form a museum of real _objets d'art_. It is settled, however, that
to-morrow I return to Imbros.

       *       *       *       *       *

It seems certain that she never wore, saw, nor knew of, clothes.

I have dressed her, first sousing her thoroughly with sponge and soap
in luke-warm rose-water in the silver cistern of the harem-bath, which
is a circular marbled apartment with a fountain and the complicated
ceilings of these houses, and frescoes, and gilt texts of the Koran on
the walls, and pale rose-silk hangings. On the divan I had heaped a
number of selected garments, and having shewed her how to towel herself,
I made her step into a pair of the trousers called _shintiyan_ made of
yellow-striped white-silk; this, by a running string, I tied loosely
round the upper part of her hips; then, drawing up the bottoms to her
knees, tied them there, so that their voluminous baggy folds,
overhanging still to the ankles, have rather the look of a skirt; over
this I put upon her a blue-striped chiffon chemise, or quamis, reaching
a little below the hips; I then put on a short jacket or vest of scarlet
satin, thickly embroidered in gold and precious stones, reaching
somewhat below the waist, and pretty tight-fitting; and, making her lie
on the couch, I put upon her little feet little yellow baboosh-slippers,
then anklets, on her fingers rings, round her neck a necklace of
sequins, finally dyeing her nails, which I cut, with henna. There
remained her head, but with this I would have nothing to do, only
pointing to the tarboosh which I had brought, to a square kerchief, to
some corals, and to the fresco of a woman on the wall, which, if she
chose, she might copy. Lastly, I pierced her ears with the silver
needles which they used here: and after two hours of it left her.

About an hour afterwards I saw her in the arcade round the court, and,
to my great surprise, she had a perfect plait down her back, and over
her head and brows a green-silk feredjeh, or hood, precisely as in the
picture.

       *       *       *       *       *

Here is a question, the answer to which would be interesting to me:
Whether or not for twenty years--or say rather twenty centuries, twenty
eternal aeons--I have been stark mad, a raving maniac; and whether or
not I am now suddenly sane, sitting here writing in my right mind, my
whole mood and tone changed, or rapidly changing? And whether such
change can be due to the presence of only one other being in the world
with me?

       *       *       *       *       *

This singular being! Where she has lived--and how--is a problem to which
not the faintest solution is conceivable. She had, I say, never seen
clothes: for when I began to dress her, her perplexity was unbounded;
also, during her twenty years, she has never seen almonds, figs, nuts,
liqueurs, chocolate, conserves, vegetables, sugar, oil, honey,
sweetmeats, orange-sherbet, mastic, salt, raki, tobacco, and many such
things: for she showed perplexity at all these, hesitation to eat them:
but she has known and tasted _white wine_: I could see that. Here, then,
is a mystery.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have not gone to Imbros, but remained here some days longer observing
her.

I have allowed her to sit in a corner at meal-time, not far from where I
eat, and I have given her food.

She is wonderfully clever! I continually find that, after an incredibly
short time, she has most completely adapted herself to this or that.
Already she wears her outfit as coquettishly as though born to clothes.
Without at all seeming observant--for, on the contrary, she gives an
impression of great flightiness--she watches me, I am convinced, with
pretty exact observation. She knows precisely when I am speaking
roughly, bidding her go, bidding her come, tired of her, tolerant of
her, scorning her, cursing her. If I wish her to the devil, she quickly
divines it by my face, and will disappear. Yesterday I noticed
something queer about her, and soon discovered that she had been
staining her lids with black kohol, like the _hanums_, so that, having
found a box, she must have guessed its use from the pictures.
Wonderfully clever!--imitative as a mirror. Two mornings ago I found an
old mother-of-pearl kittur, and sitting under the arcade, touched the
strings, playing a simple air; I could just see her behind one of the
arch-pillars on the opposite side, and she was listening with apparent
eagerness, and, I fancied, panting. Well, returning from a walk beyond
the Phanar walls in the afternoon, I heard the same air coming out from
the house, for she was repeating it pretty faultlessly by ear.

Also, during the forenoon of the previous day, I came upon her--for
footsteps make no sound in this house--in the pacha's visitors'-hall:
and what was she doing?--copying the poses of three dancing-girls
frescoed there! So that she would seem to have a character as light as a
butterfly's, and is afraid of nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now I know.

I had observed that at the beginning of every meal she seemed to have
something on her mind, going toward the door, hesitating as if to see
whether I would follow, and then returning. At length yesterday, after
sitting to eat, she jumped up, and to my infinite surprise, said her
first word: said it with a most quaint, experimental effort of the
tongue, as a fledgling trying the air: the word '_Come_.'

That morning, meeting her in the court, I had told her to repeat some
words after me: but she had made no attempt, as if shy to break the long
silence of her life; and now I felt some sort of foolish pleasure in
hearing her utter that word, often no doubt heard from me: and after
hurriedly eating, I went with her, saying to myself: 'She must be about
to shew me the food to which she is accustomed: and perhaps that will
solve her origin.'

And so it has proved. I have now discovered that to the moment when she
saw me, she had tasted only her mother's milk, dates, and that white
wine of Ismidt which the Koran permits.

As it was getting dark, I lit and took with me the big red-silk lantern,
and we set out, she leading, and walking confoundedly fast, slackening
when I swore at her, and getting fast again: and she walks with a
certain levity, flightiness, and liberated _furore_, very hard to
describe, as though space were a luxury to be revelled in. By what
instinctive cleverness, or native vigour of memory, she found her way I
cannot tell, but she led me such a walk that night, miles, miles, till I
became furious, darkness having soon fallen with only a faint moon
obscured by cloud, and a drizzle which haunted the air, she without
light climbing and picking her thinly-slippered steps over mounds of
_débris_ and loosely-strewn masonry with unfailing agility, I
occasionally splashing a foot with horror into one of those little ponds
which always marked the Stamboul streets. When I was nearer her, I would
see her peer across and upward toward Pera, as if that were a remembered
land-mark, and would note the perpetual aspen oscillations of the long
coral drops in her ears, and the nimble ply of her limbs, wondering with
a groan if Pera was our goal.

Our goal was even beyond Pera. When we came to the Golden Horn, she
pointed to my caique which lay at the Old Seraglio steps, and over the
water we went, she lying quite at ease now, with her face at the level
of the water in the centre of the crescent-shape, as familiarly as a
_hanum_ of old engaged in some escapade through the crowded Babel of
Galata and that north side of the Horn.

Through Galata we passed, I already cursing the journey: and, following
the line of the coast and the great steep thoroughfare of Pera, we came
at last, almost in the country, to a great wall, and the entrance to an
immense terraced garden, whose limits were invisible, many of the trees
and avenues being still intact.

I knew it at once: I had lain a special fuse-train in the great palace
at the top of the terraces: it was the royal palace, Yildiz.

Up and up we went through the grounds, a few unburned old bodies in rags
of uniform still discernible here and there as the lantern swung past
them, a musician in sky-blue, a fantassin and officer-of-the-guard in
scarlet, forming a cross, with domestics of the palace in
red-and-orange.

The palace itself was quite in ruins, together with all its surrounding
barracks, mosque, and seraglio, and, as we reached the top of the
grounds, presented a picture very like those which I have seen of the
ruins of Persepolis, only that here the columns, both standing and
fallen, were innumerable, and all more or less blackened; and through
doorless doors we passed, down immensely-wide short flights of steps,
and up them, and over strewed courtyards, by tottering fragments of
arcades, all roofless, and tracts of charcoal between interrupted
avenues of pillars, I following, expectant, and she very eager now.
Finally, down a flight of twelve or fourteen rather steep and narrow
steps, very dislocated, we went to a level which, I thought, must be the
floor of the palace vaults: for at the bottom of the steps we stood on a
large plain floor of plaster, which bore the marks of the flames; and
over this the girl ran a few steps, pointed with excited recognition to
a hole in it, ran further, and disappeared down the hole.

When I followed, and lowered the lantern a little, I saw that the drop
down was about eight feet, made less than six feet by a heap of
stone-rubbish below, the falling of which had caused the hole: and it
was by standing on this rubbish-heap, I knew at once, that she must have
been enabled to climb out into the world.

I dropped down, and found myself in a low flat-roofed cellar, with a
floor of black earth, very fusty and damp, but so very vast in extent
that even in the day-time, I suppose, I could not have discerned its
boundaries; I fancy, indeed, that it extends beneath the whole palace
and its environs--an enormous stretch of space: with the lantern I could
only see a very limited portion of its area. She still led me eagerly
on, and I presently came upon a whole region of flat boxes, each about
two feet square, and nine inches high, made of very thin laths, packed
to the roof; and about a-hundred-and-fifty feet from these I saw, where
she pointed, another region of bottles, fat-bellied bottles in chemises
of wicker-work, stretching away into gloom and total darkness. The
boxes, of which a great number lay broken open, as they can be by merely
pulling with the fingers at a pliant crack, contain dates; and the
bottles, of which many thousands lay empty, contain, I saw, old
Ismidtwine. Some fifty or sixty casks, covered with mildew, some old
pieces of furniture, and a great cube of rotting, curling parchments,
showed that this cellar had been more or less loosely used for the
occasional storage of superfluous stores and knick-knacks.

It was also more or less loosely used as a domestic prison. For in the
lane between the region of boxes and the region of bottles, near the
former, there lay on the ground the skeleton of a woman, the details of
whose costume were still appreciable, with thin brass gyves on her
wrists: and when I had examined her well, I knew the whole history of
the creature standing silent by my side.

She is the daughter of the Sultan, as I assumed when I had once
determined that the skeleton is both the skeleton of her mother, and the
skeleton of the Sultana.

That the skeleton was her mother is clear: for the cloud occurred just
twenty-one years since, and the dead woman was, of course, at that
moment in the prison, which must have been air-tight, and with her the
girl: but since the girl is quite certainly not much more than
twenty--she looks younger--she must at that time have been either unborn
or a young babe: but a babe would hardly be imprisoned with another than
its own mother. I am rather inclined to think that the girl was unborn
at the moment of the cloud, and was born in the cellar.

That the mother was the Sultana is clear from her fragments of dress,
and the symbolic character of her every ornament, crescent earrings,
heron-feather, and the blue campaca enamelled in a bracelet. This poor
woman, I have thought, may have been the victim of some unbounded fit of
imperial passion, incurred by some domestic crime, real or imagined,
which may have been pardoned in a day had not death overtaken her master
and the world.

There are four steep stone steps at about the centre of the cellar,
leading up to a locked iron trap-door, apparently the only opening into
this great hole: and this trap-door must have been so nearly air-tight
as to bar the intrusion of the poison in anything like deadly quantity.

But how rare--how strange--the coincidence of chances here. For, if the
trap-door was absolutely air-tight, I cannot think that the supply of
oxygen in the cellar, large as it was, would have been sufficient to
last the girl twenty years, to say nothing of what her mother used up
before death: for I imagine that the woman must have continued to live
some time in her dungeon, sufficiently long, at least, to teach her
child to procure its food of dates and wine; so that the door must have
been only just sufficiently hermetic to bar the poison, yet admit some
oxygen; or else, the place may have been absolutely air-tight at the
time of the cloud, and some crack, which I have not seen, opened to
admit oxygen after the poison was dispersed: in any case--the
all-but-infinite rarity of the chance!

Thinking these things I climbed out, and we walked to Pera, where I
slept in a great white-stone house in five or six acres of garden
overlooking the cemetery of Kassim, having pointed out to the girl
another house in which to sleep.

This girl! what a history! After existing twenty years in a sunless
world hardly three acres wide, she one day suddenly saw the only sky
which she knew collapse at one point! a hole appeared into yet a world
beyond! It was I who had come, and kindled Constantinople, and set her
free.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ah, I see something now! I see! it was for this that I was preserved: I
to be a sort of new-fangled Adam--and this little creature to be my Eve!
That is it! _The White_ does not admit defeat: he would recommence the
Race again! At the last, the eleventh hour--in spite of all--he would
turn defeat into victory, and outwit that Other.

However, if this be so--and I seem to see it quite clearly--then in that
White scheme is a singular flaw: at _one point_, it is obvious, that
elaborate Forethought fails: for I have a free will--and I refuse, I
refuse.

Certainly, in this matter I am on the side of the Black: and since it
depends absolutely upon me, this time Black wins.

No more men on the earth after me, ye Powers! To _you_ the question may
be nothing more than a gambling excitement as to the final outcome of
your aërial squabble: but to the poor men who had to bear the wrongs,
Inquisitions, rack-rents, Waterloos, unspeakable horrors, it was hard
earnest, you know! Oh the wretchedness--the deep, deep pain--of that
bungling ant-hill, happily wiped out, my God! My sweetheart Clodagh ...
she was not an ideal being! There was a man called Judas who betrayed
the gentle Founder of the Christian Faith, and there was some Roman king
named Galba, a horrid dog, and there was a French devil, Gilles de Raiz:
and the rest were all much the same, much the same. Oh no, it was not a
good race, that small infantry which called itself Man: and here,
falling on my knees before God and Satan as I write, I swear, I swear:
Never through me shall it spring and fester again.

       *       *       *       *       *

I cannot realise her! Not at all, at all, at all! If she is out of my
sight and hearing ten minutes, I fall to doubting her reality. If I lose
her for half a day, all the old feelings, resembling certainties, come
back, that I have only been dreaming--that this appearance cannot be an
actual objective fact of life, since the impossible is impossible.

Seventeen long years, seventeen long years, of madness....

       *       *       *       *       *

To-morrow I start for Imbros: and whether this girl chooses to follow
me, or whether she stays behind, I will see her from the moment I land
no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

She must rise very early. I who am now regularly on the palace-roof at
dawn, sometimes from between the pavilion-curtains of the galleries, or
from the steps of the telescope-kiosk, may spy her far down below, a
dainty microscopic figure, generally running about the sward, or gazing
up in wonder at the palace from the lake-edge.

It is now three months since she came with me to Imbros.

I left her the first night in that pale-yellow house with the two green
jalousies facing the beach, where there was everything that she would
need; but I knew that, like all the houses there now, it leaked
profusely, and the next day I went down to the curving stair, cut
through the rock at the back and south of the village, climbed, and half
a mile beyond found that park and villa with gables, which I had noted
from the sea. The villa is almost intact, very strongly built of
purplish marble, though small, and very like a Western house, with
shingles, and three gables, so that I think it must have been the yali
of some Englishman, for it contains a number of English books, though
the only body I saw there was what looked like an Aararat Kurd, with
spiral string wound down his turban, yellow ankle-pantaloons, and flung
red shoulder-cloak; and all in the heavily-wooded park, and all about
the low rock-steps up the hill, profusions of man-dragora; and from the
rock-steps to the house a narrow long avenue of acacias, mossy
underfoot, that mingle overhead, the house standing about four yards
from the edge of the perpendicular sea-cliff, whence one can see the
_Speranzas_ main top-mast, and broken mizzen-mast-head, in her quiet
haven. After examining the place I went down again to the village, and
her house: but she was not there: and two hours long I paced about among
the weeds of these amateur little alleys and flat-roofed windowless
houses (though some have terrace-roofs, and a rare aperture), whose
once-raw yellows, greens, and blues look now like sunset tints when the
last flush is gone, and they fade dun. When at last she came running
with open mouth, I took her up the rock-steps, and into the house, and
there she has lived, one of the gable-tips, I now find (that overlooking
the sea), being just visible from the north-east corner of the
palace-roof, two miles from it.

That night again, when I was leaving her, she made an attempt to follow
me. But I was resolved to end it, then: and cutting a sassafras-whip I
cut her deep, three times, till she ran, crying.

       *       *       *       *       *

So, then, what is my fate henceforth?--to think always, from sun to
moon, and from moon to sun, of one only thing--and that thing an object
for the microscope?--to become a sneaking Paul Pry to spy upon the silly
movements of one little sparrow, like some fatuous motiveless gossip of
old, his occupation to peep, his one faculty to scent, his honey and his
achievement to unearth the infinitely unimportant? I would kill her
first!

       *       *       *       *       *

I am convinced that she is no stay-at-home, but roams continually over
the island: for thrice, wandering myself, I have come upon her.

The first time she was running with flushed face, intent upon striking
down a butterfly with a twig held in the left hand (for both hands she
uses with dexterity). It was at about nine in the morning, in her park,
near the bottom where there are high grass-growths and ferny luxuriance
between the close tree-trunks, and shadow, and the broken wall of an old
funeral-kiosk sunk aslant under moss, creepers, and wild flowers, behind
which I peeped hidden and wet with dew. She has had the assurance to
modify the dress I put upon her, and was herself a butterfly, for
instead of the shintiyan, she had on a zouave, hardly reaching to the
waist, of saffron satin, no feredjé, but a scarlet fez with violet
tassel, and baggy pantaloons of azure silk; down her back the long
auburn plait, quite neat, but all her front hair loose and wanton, the
fez cocked backward, while I caught glimpses of her fugitive heels
lifting out of the dropping slipper-sole. She is pretty clever, but not
clever enough, for that butterfly escaped, and in one instant I saw her
change into weary and sad, for on this earth is nothing more fickle than
that Proteus face, which resembles a landscape swept with cloud-shadows
on a bright day. Fast beat my heart that morning, owing to the
consciousness that, while I saw, I was unseen, yet might be seen.

Another noontide, three weeks afterwards, I came upon her a good way up
yonder to the west of the palace, sleeping on her arm in an alley
between overgrown old trellises, where rioting wild vine buried her in
gloom: but I had not been peeping through the bushes a minute, when she
started up and looked wildly about, her quick consciousness, I imagine,
detecting a presence: though I think that I managed to get away unseen.
She keeps her face very dirty: all about her mouth was dry-stained with
a polychrome of grape, _mûrs_, and other coloured juices, like
slobbering _gamins_ of old. I could also see that her nose and cheeks
are now sprinkled with little freckles.

Four days since I saw her a third time, and then found that the
primitive instinct to represent the world in pictures has been working
in her: for she was drawing. It was down in the middle one of the three
east-and-west village streets, for thither I had strolled toward
evening, and coming out upon the street from between an old wall and a
house, saw her quite near. I pulled up short--and peered. She was lying
on her face all among grasses, a piece of yellow board before her, and
in her fingers a chalk-splinter: and very intently she drew, her
tongue-tip travelling along her short upper-lip from side to side,
regularly as a pendulum, her fez tipped far back, and the left foot
swinging upward from the knee. She had drawn her yali at the top, and
now, as I could see by peering well forward, was drawing underneath the
palace--from memory, for where she lay it is all hidden: yet the palace
it was, for there were the waving lines meant for the steps, the two
slanting pillars, the slanting battlements of the outer court, and
before the portal, with turban reaching above the roof, and my two
whisks of beard sweeping below the knees--myself.

Something spurred me, and I could not resist shouting a sudden "Hi!"
whereupon she scrambled like a spring-bok to her feet, I pointing to the
drawing, smiling.

This creature has a way of mincing her pressed lips, while she shakes
the head, intensely cooing a fond laugh: and so she did then.

"You are a clever little wretch, you know," said I, she cocking her eye,
trying to divine my meaning with vague smile.

'Oh, yes, a clever little wretch,' I went on in a gruff voice, 'clever
as a serpent, no doubt: for in the first case it was the Black who used
the serpent, but now it is the White. But it will not do, you know. Do
you know what you are to me, you? You are my Eve!--a little fool, a
little piebald frog like you. But it will not do at all, at all! A nice
race it would be with you for mother, and me for father, wouldn't
it?--half-criminal like the father, half-idiot like the mother: just
like the last, in short. They used to say, in fact, that the offspring
of a brother and sister was always weak-headed: and from such a wedlock
certainly came the human race, so no wonder it was what it was: and so
it would have to be again now. Well no--unless we have the children, and
cut their throats at birth: and _you_ would not like that at all, I
know, and, on the whole, it would not work, for the White would be
striking a poor man dead with His lightning, if I attempted that. No,
then: the modern Adam is some eight to twenty thousand years wiser than
the first--you see? less instinctive, more rational. The first disobeyed
by commission: I shall disobey by omission: only his disobedience was a
sin, mine is a heroism. I have not been a particularly ideal sort of
beast so far, you know: but in me, Adam Jeffson--I swear it--the human
race shall at last attain a true nobility, the nobility of
self-extinction. I shall turn out trumps: I shall prove myself stronger
than Tendency, World-Genius, Providence, Currents of Fate, White Power,
Black Power, or whatever is the name for it. No more Clodaghs, Lucrezia
Borgias, Semiramises, Pompadours, Irish Landlords, Hundred-Years'
Wars--you see?'

She kept her left eye obliquely cocked like a little fool, wondering, no
doubt, what I was saying.

'And talking of Clodagh,' I went on, 'I shall call you that henceforth,
to keep me reminded. So that is your name--not Eve--but Clodagh, who was
a Poisoner, you see? She poisoned a poor man who trusted her: and that
is your name now--not Eve, but Clodagh--to remind me, you most dangerous
little speckled viper! And in order that I may no more see your foolish
little pretty face, I decree that, for the future, you wear a _yashmak_
to cover up your lips, which, I can see, were meant to be seductive,
though dirty; and you can leave the blue eyes, and the little
white-skinned freckled nose uncovered, if you like, they being
commonplace enough. Meantime, if you care to see how to draw a palace--I
will show you.'

Before I stretched my hand, she was presenting the board--so that she
had guessed something of my meaning! But some hard tone in my talk had
wounded her, for she presented it looking very glum, her under-lip
pushing a little obliquely out, very pathetically, I must say, as always
when she is just ready to cry.

In a few strokes I drew the palace, and herself standing at the portal
between the pillars: and now great was her satisfaction, for she pointed
to the sketched figure, and to herself, interrogatively: and when I
nodded 'yes,' she went cooing her fond murmurous laugh, with pressed
and mincing lips: and it is clear that, in spite of my beatings, she is
in no way afraid of me.

Before I could move away, I felt some rain-drops, and down in some
seconds rushed a shower. I looked, saw that the sky was rapidly
darkening, and ran into the nearest of the little cubical houses,
leaving her glancing sideways upward, with the quaintest artlessness of
interest in the downpour: for she is not yet quite familiarised with the
operations of nature, and seems to regard them with a certain amiable
inquisitive seriousness, as though they were living beings, comrades as
good as herself. She presently joined me, but even then stretched her
hand out to feel the drops.

Now there came a thunder-clap, the wind was rising, and rain spattering
about me: for the panes of these houses, made, I believe, of paper
saturated in almond-oil, have long disappeared, and rains, penetrating
by roof and rare window, splash the bones of men. I gathered up my
skirts to run toward other shelter, but she was before me, saying in her
strange experimental voice that word of hers: "_Come_."

She ran in advance, and I, with the outer robe over my head, followed,
urging flinching way against the whipped rain-wash. She took the way by
the stone horse-pond, through an alley to the left between two blind
walls, then down a steep path through wood to the rock-steps, and up we
ran, and along the hill, to her yali, which is a mile nearer the village
than the palace, though by the time we pelted into its dry shelter we
were wet to the skin.

Sudden darkness had come, but she quickly found some matches, lit one,
looking at it with a certain meditative air, and applied it to a candle
and to a bronze Western lamp on the table, which I had taught her to oil
and light. Near a Western fire-place was a Turkish mangal, like one
which she had seen me light to warm bath-waters in Constantinople, and
when I pointed to it, she ran to the kitchen, returned with some chopped
wood, and very cleverly lit it. And there for several hours I sat that
night, reading (the first time for many years): it was a book by the
poet Milton, found in a glazed book-case on the other side of the
fire-place: and most strange, most novel, I found those august words
about warring angels that night, while the storm raved: for this man had
evidently taken no end of pains with his book, and done it gallantly
well, too, making the thing hum: and I could not conceive why he should
have been at that trouble--unless it were for the same reason that I
built the palace, because some spark bites a man, and he would be
like--but that is all vanity, and delusion.

Well, there is a rage in the storms of late years which really
transcends bounds; I do not remember if I have noted it in these sheets
before: but I never could have conceived a turbulence so huge. Hour
after hour I sat there that night, smoking a chibouque, reading, and
listening to the batteries and lamentations of that haunted air,
shrinking from it, fearing even for the _Speranza_ by her quay in the
sequestered harbour, and for the palace-pillars. But what astonished me
was that girl: for, after sitting on the ottoman to my left some time,
she fell sideways asleep, not the least fear about her, though I should
have thought that nervousness at such a turmoil would be so natural to
her: and whence she has this light confidence in the world into which
she has so abruptly come I do not know, for it is as though someone
inspired her with the mood of nonchalance, saying: 'Be of good cheer,
and care not a pin about anything: for God is God.'

I heard the ocean swing hoarse like heavy ordnance against the cliffs
below, where they meet the outer surface of the southern of the two
claws of land that form the harbour: and the thought came into my mind:
'If now I taught her to speak, to read, I could sometimes make her read
a book to me.'

The winds seemed wilfully struggling for the house to snatch and wing it
away into the drear Eternities of the night: and I could not but heave
the sigh: 'Alas for us two poor waifs and castaways of our race, little
bits of flotsam and seaweed-hair cast up here a moment, ah me, on this
shore of the Ages, soon to be dragged back, O turgid Eternity, into thy
abysmal gorge; and upon what strand--who shall say?--shall she next be
flung, and I, divided then perhaps by all the stretch of the
trillion-distanced astral gulf?' And such a pity, and a wringing of the
heart, seemed in things, that a tear fell from my eyes that ominous
midnight.

She started up at a gust of more appalling volume, rubbing her eyes,
with dishevelled hair (it must have been about midnight), listening a
minute, with that demure, droll interest of hers, to the noise of the
elements, and then smiled to me; rose then, left the room, and presently
returned with a pomegranate and some almonds on a plate, also some
delicious old sweet wine in a Samian cruche, and an old silver cup, gilt
inside, standing in a zarf. These she placed on the table near me, I
murmuring: 'Hospitality.'

She looked at the book, which I read as I ate, with lowered left
eye-lid, seeking to guess its use, I suppose. Most things she
understands at once, but this must have baffled her: for to see one
looking fixedly at a thing, and not know what one is looking at it for,
must be very disconcerting.

I held it up before her, saying:

"Shall I teach you to read it? If I did, how would you repay me, you
Clodagh?"

She cocked her eyes, seeking to comprehend. God knows, at that moment I
pitied the poor dumb waif, alone in all the whole round earth with me.
The candle-flame, moved by the wind like a slow-painting brush,
flickered upon her face, though every cranny was closed.

"Perhaps, then," I said, "I will teach you. You are a pitiable little
derelict of your race, you know: and two hours every day I will let you
come to the palace, and I will teach you. But be sure, be careful. If
there be danger, I will kill you: assuredly--without fail. And let me
begin with a lesson now: say after me: 'White.'"

I took her hand, and got her to understand that I wanted her to repeat
after me.

"White," said I.

"Hwhite," said she.

'Power,' said I.

'Pow-wer,' said she.

'White Power,' said I.

'Hwhite Pow-wer,' said she.

'Shall not,' said I.

'Sall not,' said she.

'White Power shall not,' said I.

'Hwhite Pow-wer sall not,' said she.

'Prevail,' said I.

'Fffail,' said she, pronouncing the 'v' with a long fluttering
'f'-sound.

'Pre-vail,' said I.

'Pe-vvvail,' said she.

'White Power shall not prevail,' said I.

'Hwhite Pow-wer sall not--fffail,' said she.

A thunder which roared as she said it seemed to me to go laughing
through the universe, and a minute I looked upon her face with positive
shrinking fear; till, starting up, I thrust her with violence from my
path, and dashed forth to re-seek the palace and my bed.

Such was the ingratitude and fatality which my first attempt, four
nights since, to teach her met with. It remains to be seen whether my
pity for her dumbness, or some servile tendency toward fellowship in
myself, will result in any further lesson. Certainly, I think not: for
though I have given my word, the most solemnly-pledged word may be
broken.

Surely, surely, her presence in the world with me--for I suppose it is
that--has wrought some profound changes in my mood: for gone now
apparently are those turbulent hours when, stalking like a peacock, I
flaunted my monarchy in the face of the Eternal Powers, with hissed
blasphemies; or else dribbled, shaking my body in a lewd dance; or was
off to fire some vast city and revel in redness and the chucklings of
Hell; or rolled in the drunkenness of drugs. It was mere frenzy!--I see
it now--it was 'not good,' 'not good.' And it rather looks as if it were
past--or almost. I have clipped my beard and hair, removed the earrings,
and thought of modifying my attire. I will just watch to see whether she
comes loitering down there about the gate of the lake.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her progress is like....

       *       *       *       *       *

It is nine months since I have written, on these sheets, those words,
'Her progress is like....' being the beginning of some narrative in
which something interrupted me: and since then I have had no impulse to
write.

But I was thinking just now of the curious tricks and uncertainties of
my memory, and seeing the sheets, will record it here. I have lately
been trying to recall the name of a sister of mine--some perfectly
simple name, I know--and the name of my old home in England: and they
have completely passed out of my cognizance, though she was my only
sister, and we grew up closely together: some quite simple name, I
forget it now. Yet I can't say that my memory is bad: there are
things--quite unexpected, unimportant things--which come up in my mind
with considerable clearness. For instance, I remember to have met in
Paris (I think), long before the poison-cloud, a little Brazilian boy of
the colour of weak coffee-and-milk, of whom she now constantly reminds
me. He wore his hair short like a convict's, so that one could spy the
fish-white flesh beneath, and delighted to play solitary about the
stairs of the hotel, dressed up in the white balloon-dress of a Pierrot.
I have the impression now that he must have had very large ears. Clever
as a flea he was, knowing five or six languages, as it were by nature,
without having any suspicion that that was at all extraordinary. She has
that same light, unconscious, and nonchalant cleverness, and easy way of
life. It is little more than a year since I began to teach her, and
already she can speak English with a quite considerable vocabulary, and
perfect correctness (except that she does not pronounce the letter 'r');
she has also read, or rather devoured, a good many books; and can write,
draw, and play the harp. And all she does without effort: rather with
the flighty naturalness with which a bird takes to the wing.

What made me teach her to read was this: One afternoon, fourteen months
or so ago, I from the roof-kiosk saw her down at the lake-rim, a book in
hand; and as she had seen me looking steadily at books, so she was
looking steadily at it, with pathetic sideward head: so that I burst
into laughter, for I saw her clearly through the glass, and whether she
is the simplest little fool, or the craftiest serpent that ever
breathed, I am not yet sure. If I thought that she has the least design
upon my honour, it would be ill for her.

I went to Gallipoli for two days in the month of May, and brought back a
very pretty little caique, a perfect slender crescent of the colour of
the moon, though I had two days' labour in cutting through bush-thicket
for the passage of the motor in bringing it up to the lake. It has
pleased me to see her lie among the silk cushions of the middle, while
I, paddling, taught her her first words and sentences between the hours
of eight and ten in the evening, though later they became 10 A.M. to
noon, when the reading began, we sitting on the palace-steps before the
portal, her mouth invariably well covered with the yashmak, the
lesson-book being a large-lettered old Bible found at her yali. _Why_
she must needs wear the yashmak she has never once asked; and how much
she divines, knows, or intends, I have no idea, continually questioning
myself as to whether she is all simplicity, or all cunning.

That she is conscious of some profound difference in our organisation I
cannot doubt: for that I have a long beard, and she none at all, is
among the most patent of facts.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have thought that a certain _Western-ness_--a growing modernity of
tone--may be the result, as far as I am concerned, of her presence with
me? I do not know....

       *       *       *       *       *

There is the gleam of a lake-end just visible in the north forest from
the palace-top, and in it a good number of fish like carp, tench, roach,
etc., so in May I searched for a tackle-shop in the Gallipoli
Fatmeh-bazaar, and got four 12-foot rods, with reels, silk-line,
quill-floats, a few yards of silk-worm gut, with a packet of No. 7 and
8 hooks, and split-shot for sinkers; and since red-worms, maggots and
gentles are common on the island, I felt sure of a great many more fish
than the number I wanted, which was none at all. However, for the mere
amusement, I fished several times, lying at my length in a patch of
long-grass over-waved by an enormous cedar, where the bank is steep, and
the water deep. And one mid-afternoon she was suddenly there with me,
questioned me with her eyes, and when I consented, stayed: and presently
I said I would teach her bottom-angling, and sent her flying up to the
palace for another rod and tackle.

That day she did nothing, for after teaching her to thread the worm, and
put the gentles on the smaller hooks, I sent her to hunt for worms to
chop up for ground-baiting the pitch for the next afternoon; and when
this was done it was dinner-time, and I sent her home, for by then I was
giving the reading-lessons in the morning.

The next day I found her at the bank, taught her to take the sounding
for adjusting the float, and she lay down not far from me, holding the
rod. So I said to her:

'Well, this is better than living in a dark cellar twenty years, with
nothing to do but walk up and down, sleep, and consume dates and Ismidt
wine.'

'Yes!' says she.

'Twenty years!' said I: 'How did you bear it?'

'I was not closs,' says she.

'Did you never suspect that there was a world outside that cellar?' said
I.

'Never,' says she, 'or lather, yes: but I did not suppose that it was
_this_ world, but another where he lived.'

'He who?'

'He who spoke with me.'

'Who was that?'

'Oh! a bite!' she screamed gladly.

I saw her float bob under, and started up, rushed to her, and taught her
how to strike and play it, though it turned out when landed to be
nothing but a tiny barbel: but she was in ecstasies, holding it on her
palm, murmuring her fond coo.

She re-baited, and we lay again. I said:

'But what a life: no exit, no light, no prospect, no hope--'

'Plenty of _hope_!' says she.

'Good Heavens! hope of what?'

'I knew vely well that something was lipening over the cellar, or under,
or alound it, and would come to pass at a certain fixed hour, and that I
should see it, and feel it, and it would be vely nice.'

'Ah, well, you had to wait for it, at any rate. Didn't those twenty
years seem _long_?'

'No--at least sometimes--not often. I was always so occupied.'

'Occupied in doing what?'

'In eating, or dlinking, or lunning, or talking.'

'Talking to your_self_?'

'Not myself.'

'To whom, then?'

'To the one who told me when I was hungly, and put the dates to satisfy
my hunger.'

'I see. Don't wriggle about in that way, or you will never catch any
fish. The maxim of angling is: "Study to be quiet"--'

'O! another bite!' she called, and this time, all alone, very agilely
landed a good-sized bream.

'But do you mean that you were never sad?' said I when she was
re-settled.

'Sometimes I would sit and cly,' says she--'I did not know why. But if
that was "sadness," I was never miserlable, never, never. And if I
clied, it did not last long, and I would soon fall to sleep, for he
would lock me in his lap, and kiss me, and wipe all my tears away.'

'He who?'

'Why, what a question! he who told me when I was hungly, and of the
thing that was lipening outside the cellar, which would be so nice.'

'I see, I see. But in all that dingy place, and thick gloom, were you
never at all afraid?'

'Aflaid! _I_! of what?'

'Of the unknown.'

'I do not understand you. How could I be _aflaid_? The known was the
very opposite of tellible: it was merely hunger and dates, thirst and
wine, the desire to lun and space to lun in, the desire to sleep and
sleep: there was nothing tellible in that: and the unknown was even less
tellible than the known: for it was the nice thing that was lipening
outside the cellar. I do not understand--'

'Ah, yes,' said I, 'you are a clever little being: but your continual
fluttering about is fatal to all angling. Isn't it in your nature to
keep still a minute? And with regard now to your habits in the
cellar--?'

'_Another!_' she cried with happy laugh, and landed a young chub. And
that afternoon she caught seven, and I none.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another day I took her from the pitch to one of the kitchens in the
village with some of the fish, till then always thrown away, and taught
her cooking: for the only cooking-implement in the palace is the silver
alcohol-lamp for coffee and chocolate. We both scrubbed the utensils,
and boil and fry I taught her, and the making of a sauce from vinegar,
bottled olives, and the tinned American butter from the _Speranza_, and
the boiling of rice mixed with flour for ground-baiting our pitch. And
she, at first astonished, was soon all deft housewifeliness, breathless
officiousness, and behind my back, of her own intuitiveness, grated some
dry almonds found there, and with them sprinkled the fried tench. And we
ate them, sitting on the floor together: the first new food, I suppose,
tasted by me for twenty-one years: nor did I find it disagreeable.

The next day she came up to the palace reading a book, which turned out
to be a cookery-book in English, found at her yali; and a week later,
she appeared, out of hours, presenting me a yellow-earthenware dish
containing a mess of gorgeous colours--a boiled fish under red peppers,
bits of saffron, a greenish sauce, and almonds: but I turned her away,
and would have none of her, or her dish.

       *       *       *       *       *

About a mile up to the west of the palace is a very old ruin in the
deepest forest, I think of a mosque, though only three truncated
internal pillars under ivy, and the weedy floor, with the courtyard and
portal-steps remain, before it being a long avenue of cedars, gently
descending from the steps, the path between the trees choked with
long-grass and wild rye reaching to my middle. Here I saw one day a
large disc of old brass, bossed in the middle, which may have been
either a shield or part of an ancient cymbal, with concentric rings
graven round it, from centre to circumference. The next day I brought
some nails, a hammer, a saw, and a box of paints from the _Speranza_;
and I painted the rings in different colours, cut down a slim
lime-trunk, nailed the thin disc along its top, and planted it well,
before the steps: for I said I would make a bull's-eye, and do rifle and
revolver practice before it, from the avenue. And this the next evening
I was doing at four hundred feet, startling the island, it seemed, with
that unusual noise, when up she came peering with enquiring face: at
which I was very angry, because my arm, long unused, was firing wide:
but I was too proud to say anything, and let her look, and soon she
understood, laughing every time I made a considerable miss, till at last
I turned upon her saying: 'If you think it so easy, you may try.'

She had been wanting to try, for she came eagerly to the offer, and
after I had opened and showed her the mechanism, the cartridges, and how
to shoot, I put into her hands one of the _Speranza_ Colt's. She took
her bottom-lip between her teeth, shut her left eye, vaulted out the
revolver like an old shot to the level of her intense right eye, and
sent a ball through the geometrical centre of the boss.

However, it was a fluke-shot, for I had the satisfaction of seeing her
miss every one of the other five, except the last, which hit the black.
That, however, was three weeks since, and now my hitting record is forty
per cent., and hers ninety-six--most extraordinary: so that it is clear
that this creature is the _protégée_ of someone, and favouritism is in
the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

Her book of books is the Old Testament. Sometimes, at noon or afternoon,
I may look abroad from the roof or galleries, and see a remote figure
sitting on the sward under the shade of plane or black cypress: and I
always know that the book she cons there is the Bible--like an old
Rabbi. She has a passion for stories: and there finds a store.

Three nights since when it was pretty late, and the moon very splendid,
I saw her passing homewards close to the lake, and shouted down to her,
meaning to say 'Good-night'; but she thought that I had called her, and
came: and sitting out on the top step we talked for hours, she without
the yashmak.

We fell to talking about the Bible. And says she: 'What did Cain to
Abel?'

'He knocked him over,' I replied, liking sometimes to use such idioms,
with the double object of teaching and perplexing her.

'Over what?' says she.

'Over his heels,' said I.

'I do not complehend!'

'He killed him, then.'

'That I know. But how did Abel feel when he was killed? What is it to be
_killed_?'

'Well,' said I, 'you have seen bones all around you, and the bones of
your mother, and you can feel the bones in your fingers. Your fingers
will become mere bone after you are dead, as die you must. Those bones
which you see around you, are, of course, the bones of the men of whom
we often speak: and the same thing happened to them which happens to a
fish or a butterfly when you catch them, and they lie all still.'

'And the men and the butterfly feel the same after they are dead?'

'Precisely the same. They lie in a deep drowse, and dream a
nonsense-dream.'

'That is not dleadful. I thought that it was much more dleadful. I
should not mind dying.'

'Ah!... so much the better: for it is possible that you may have to die
a great deal sooner than you think.'

'I should not mind. Why were men so vely aflaid to die?'

'Because they were all such shocking cowards.'

'Oh, not all! not all!'

(This girl, I know not with what motive, has now definitely set herself
up against me as the defender of the dead race. With every chance she is
at it.)

'Nearly all,' said I: 'tell me one who was not afraid--'

'There was Isaac,' says she: 'when Ablaham laid him on the wood to kill
him, he did not jump up and lun to hide.'

'Isaac was a great exception,' said I: 'in the Bible and such books, you
understand, you read of only the best sorts of people; but there were
millions and millions of others--especially about the time of the
poison-cloud--on a very much lower level--putrid wretches--covetous,
false, murderous, mean, selfish, debased, hideous, diseased, making the
earth a very charnel of festering vices and crimes.'

This, for several minutes, she did not answer, sitting with her back
half toward me, cracking almonds, continually striking one step with the
ball of her outstretched foot. In the clarid gold of the platform I saw
her fez and corals reflected as an elongated blotch of florid red. She
turned and drank some wine from the great gold Jarvan goblet which I had
brought from the temple of Boro Budor, her head quite covered in by it.
Then, the little hairs at her lip-corners still wet, says she:

'Vices and climes, climes and vices. Always the same. What were these
climes and vices?'

'Robberies of a hundred sorts, murders of ten hundred--'

'But what made them _do_ them?'

'Their evil nature--their base souls.'

'But _you_ are one of them, _I_ am another: yet you and I live here
together, and we do no vices and climes.'

Her astounding shrewdness! Right into the inmost heart of a matter does
her simple wit seem to pierce!

'No,' I said, 'we do no vices and crimes, because we lack _motive_.
There is no danger that we should hate each other, for we have plenty to
eat and drink, dates, wines, and thousands of things. (Our danger is
rather the other way.) But _they_ hated and schemed, because they were
very numerous, and there arose a question among them of dates and wine.'

'Was there not, then, enough land to grow dates and wine for all?'

'There was--yes: much more than enough, I fancy. But some got hold of a
vast lot of it, and as the rest felt the pinch of scarcity, there arose,
naturally, a pretty state of things--including the vices and crimes.'

'Ah, but then,' says she, 'it was not to their bad souls that the vices
and climes were due, but only to this question of land. It is certain
that if there had been no such question, there would have been no vices
and climes, because you and I, who are just like them, do no vices and
climes here, where there is no such question.'

The clear limelight of her intelligence! She wriggled on her seat in her
effort of argument.

'I am not going to argue the matter,' I said. 'There _was_ that question
of dates and wine, you see. And there always must be on an earth where
millions of men, with varying degrees of cunning, reside.'

'Oh, not at all necessalily!' she cries with conviction: 'not at all, at
all: since there are much more dates and wine than are enough for all.
If there should spling up more men now, having the whole wisdom,
science, and expelience of the past at their hand, and they made an
allangement among themselves that the first man who tlied to take more
than he could work for should be killed, and sent to dleam a
nonsense-dleam, the question could never again alise!'

'It arose before--it would arise again.'

'But no! I can guess clearly how it alose before: it alose thlough the
sheer carelessness of the first men. The land was at first so vely, vely
much more than enough for all, that the men did not take the tlouble to
make an allangement among themselves; and afterwards the habit of
carelessness was confirmed; till at last the vely oliginal carelessness
must have got to have the look of an allangement; and so the stleam
which began in a little long ended in a big long, the long glowing more
and more fixed and fatal as the stleam lolled further flom the source. I
see it clearly, can't you? But now, if some more men would spling, they
would be taught--'

'Ah, but no more men will _spling_, you see--!'

'There is no telling. I sometimes feel as if they must, and shall. The
tlees blossom, the thunder lolls, the air makes me lun and leap, the
glound is full of lichness, and I hear the voice of the Lord God walking
all among the tlees of the folests.'

As she said this, I saw her under-lip push out and tremble, as when she
is near to crying, and her eyes moisten: but a moment after she looked
at me full, and smiled, so mobile is her face: and as she looked, it
suddenly struck me what a noble temple of a brow the creature has,
almost pointed at the uplifted summit, and widening down like a
bell-curved Gothic arch, draped in strings of frizzy hair which anon she
shakes backward with her head.

'Clodagh,' I said after some minutes--'do you know why I called you
Clodagh?'

'No? Tell me?'

'Because once, long ago before the poison-cloud, I had a lover called
Clodagh: and she was a....'

'But tell me first,' cries she: 'how did one know one's lover, or one's
wife, flom all the others?'

'Well, by their faces....'

'But there must have been many faces--all alike--'

'Not all alike. Each was different from the rest.'

'Still, it must have been vely clever to tell. I can hardly conceive
any face, except yours and mine.'

'Ah, because you are a little goose, you see.'

'What was a goose like?'

'It was a thing like a butterfly, only larger, and it kept its toes
always spread out, with a skin stretched between.'

'Leally? How caplicious! And am I like that?--but what were you saying
that your lover, Clodagh, was?'

'She was a Poisoner.'

'Then why call me Clodagh, since _I_ am not a poisoner?'

'I call you so to remind me: lest you--lest you--should become
my--lover, too.'

'I am your lover already: for I love you.'

'What, girl?'

'Do I not love you, who are mine?'

'Come, come, don't be a little maniac!' I went. 'Clodagh was a
_poisoner_....'

'Why did she poison? Had she not enough dates and wine?'

'She had, yes: but she wanted more, more, more, the silly idiot.'

'So that the vices and climes were not confined to those that lacked
things, but were done by the others, too?'

'By the others chiefly.'

'Then I see how it was!'

'How was it?'

'The others had got _spoiled_. The vices and climes must have
begun with those who lacked things, and then the others, always seeing
vices and climes alound them, began to do them, too--as when one rotten
olive is in a bottle, the whole mass soon becomes collupted: but
originally they were not rotten, but only became so. And all though a
little carelessness at the first. I am sure that if more men could
spling now--'

'But I _told_ you, didn't I, that no more men will spring? You
understand, Clodagh, that originally the earth produced men by a long
process, beginning with a very low type of creature, and continually
developing it, until at last a man stood up. But that can never happen
again: for the earth is old, old, and has lost her producing vigour now.
So talk no more of men _splinging_, and of things which you do not
understand. Instead, go inside--stop, I will tell you a secret: to-day
in the wood I picked some musk-roses and wound them into a wreath,
meaning to give them you for your head when you came to-morrow: and it
is inside on the pearl tripod in the second room to the left: go,
therefore, and put it on, and bring the harp, and play to me, my dear.'

She ran quick with a little cry, and coming again, sat crowned,
incarnadine in the blushing depths of the gold. Nor did I send her home
to her lonely yali, till the pale and languished moon, weary of
all-night beatitudes, sank down soft-couched in quilts of curdling opals
to the Hesperian realms of her rest.

So sometimes we speak together, she and I, she and I.

       *       *       *       *       *

That ever I should write such a thing! I am driven out from Imbros!

I was walking up in a wood yesterday to the west--it was a calm clear
evening about seven, the sun having just set. I had the book in which I
have written so far in my hand, for I had thought of making a sketch of
an old windmill to the north-west to show her. Twenty minutes before she
had been with me, for I had chanced to meet her, and she had come, but
kept darting on ahead after peeping fruit, gathering armfuls of
amaranth, nenuphar, and red-berried asphodel, till, weary of my life, I
had called to her: 'Go away! out of my sight'--and she, with suddenly
pushed under-lip, had walked off.

Well, I was continuing my stroll, when I seemed to feel some quaking of
the ground, and before one could count twenty, it was as if the island
was bent upon wracking itself to pieces. My first thought was of her,
and in great scare I went running, calling in the direction which she
had gone, staggering as on the deck of some labouring ship, falling,
picking myself up, running again. The air was quite full of uproar, and
the land waving like the sea: and as I went plunging, not knowing
whither, I saw to my right some three or four acres of forest droop and
sink into a gulf which opened to receive them. Up I flung my arms,
crying out: 'Good God! save the girl!' and a minute later rushed out, to
my surprise, into open space on a hill-side. On the lower ground I could
see the palace, and beyond it, a small space of white sea which had the
awful appearance of being higher than the land. Down the hill-side I
staggered, driven by the impulse to fly somewhither, but about half way
down was startled afresh by a shrill pattering like musical hail, and
the next moment saw the entire palace rush with the jangling clatter of
a thousand bells into the heaving lake.

Some seconds after this, the earthquake, having lasted fully ten
minutes, began to lull, and soon ceased. I found her an hour later
standing among the ruins of her little yali.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, what a thing! Probably every building on the island has been
destroyed; the palace-platform, all cracked, leans half-sunken askew
into the lake, like a huge stranded ark, while of the palace itself no
trace remains, except a mound of gold stones emerging above the lake to
the south. Gone, gone--sixteen years of vanity and vexation. But from a
practical point of view, what is a worst calamity of all is that the
_Speranza_ now lies high-and-dry in the village: for she was bodily
picked up from the quay by the tidal wave, and driven bow-foremost into
a street not half her width, and there now lies, looking huge enough in
the little village, wedged for ever, smashed in at the nip like a frail
match-box, a most astonishing spectacle: her bows forty feet up the
street, ten feet above the ground at the stem, rudder resting on the
inner edge of the quay, foremast tilted forward, the other two masts all
right, and that bottom, which has passed through seas so far, buried in
every sort of green and brown seaweed, the old _Speranza_. Her steps
were there, and by a slight leap I could catch them underneath and go up
hand-over-hand, till I got foothold; this I did at ten the same night
when the sea-water had mostly drained back from the land, leaving
everything very swampy, however; she there with me, and soon following
me upon the ship. I found most things cracked into tiny fragments,
twisted, disfigured out of likeness, the house-walls themselves
displaced a little at the nip, the bow of the cedar skiff smashed in to
her middle against the aft starboard corner of the galley; and were it
not for the fact that the air-pinnace had not broken from her heavy
ropings, and one of the compasses still whole, I do not know what I
should have done: for the four old water-logged boats in the cove have
utterly disappeared.

I made her sleep on the cabin-floor amid the _débris_ of berth and
everything, and I myself slept high up in the wood to the west. I am
writing now lying in the long-grass the morning after, the sun rising,
though I cannot see him. My plan for to-day is to cut three or four logs
with the saw, lay them on the ground by the ship, lower the pinnace upon
them, so get her gradually down into the water, and by evening bid a
long farewell to Imbros, which drives me out in this way. Still, I look
forward with pleasure to our hour's run to the Mainland, when I shall
teach her to steer by the compass, and manipulate liquid-air, as I have
taught her to dress, to talk, to cook, to write, to think, to live. For
she is my creation, this creature: as it were, a 'rib from my side.'

But what is the design of this expulsion? And what was it that she
called it last night?--'this new going out flom Halan'! 'Haran,' I
believe, being the place from which Abraham went out, when 'called' by
God.

       *       *       *       *       *

We apparently felt only the tail of the earthquake at Imbros: for it has
ravaged Turkey! And we two poor helpless creatures put down here in the
theatre of all these infinite violences: it is too bad, too bad. For the
rages of Nature at present are perfectly astonishing, and what it may
come to I do not know. When we came to the Macedonian coast in good
moonlight, we sailed along it, and up the Dardanelles, looking out for
village, yali, or any habitation where we might put up: but everything
has apparently been wrecked. We saw Kilid-Bahr, Chanak-Kaleh, Gallipoli,
Lapsaki in ruins; at the last place I landed, leaving her in the boat,
and walked a little way, but soon went back with the news that there was
not even a bazaar-arch left standing whole, in most parts even the line
of the streets being obliterated, for the place had fallen like a house
of dice, and had then been shaken up and jumbled. Finally we slept in a
forest on the other side of the strait, beyond Gallipoli, taking our few
provisions, and having to wade at some points through morass a foot deep
before we reached dry woodland.

Here, the next morning, I sat alone--for we had slept separated by at
least half a mile--thinking out the question of whither I should go: my
choice would have been to remain either in the region where I was, or to
go Eastward: but the region where I was offered no dwelling that I could
see; and to go any distance Eastward, I needed a ship. Of ships I had
seen during the night only wrecks, nor did I know where to find one in
all these latitudes. I was thus, like her 'Ablaham,' urged Westward.

In order, then, to go Westward, I first went a little further Eastward,
once more entered the Golden Horn, and once more mounted the scorched
Seraglio steps. Here what the wickedness of man had spared, the
wickedness of Nature had destroyed, and the few houses which I had left
standing round the upper part of Pera I now saw low as the rest; also
the house near the Suleimanieh, where we had lived our first days, to
which I went as to a home, I found without a pillar standing; and that
night she slept under the half-roof of a little funeral-kiosk in the
scorched cypress-wood of Eyoub, and I a mile away, at the edge of the
forest where first I saw her.

The next morning, having met, as agreed, at the site of the Prophet's
mosque, we traversed together the valley and cemetery of Kassim by the
quagmires up to Pera, all the landscape having to me a rather twisted
unfamiliar aspect. We had determined to spend the morning in searching
for supplies among the earthquake-ruins of Pera; and as I had decided to
collect sufficient in one day to save us further pains for some time, we
passed a good many hours in this task, I confining myself to the great
white house in the park overlooking Kassim, where I had once slept,
losing myself in the huge obliquities of its floors, roofs and
wall-fragments, she going to the old Mussulman quarter of Djianghir
near, on the heights of Taxim, where were many shops, and thence round
the brow of the hill to the great French Embassy-house, overlooking
Foundoucli and the sea, both of us having large Persian carpet-bags, and
all in the air of that wilderness of ruin that morning a sweet, strong,
permanent odour of maple-blossom.

We met toward evening, she quivering under such a load, that I would not
let her carry it, but abandoned my day's labour, which was lighter, and
took hers, which was quite enough: we went back Westward, seeking all
the while some shelter from the saturating night-dews of this place: and
nothing could we find, till we came again, quite late, to her broken
funeral-kiosk at the entrance to the immense cemetery-avenue of Eyoub.
There without a word I left her among the shattered catafalques, for I
was weary; but having gone some distance, turned back, thinking that I
might take some more raisins from the bag; and after getting them, said
to her, shaking her little hand where she sat under the roof-shadow on a
stone:

'Good-night, Clodagh.'

She did not answer promptly: and her answer, to my surprise, was a
protest against her name: for a rather sulky, yet gentle, voice came
from the darkness, saying:

'I am _not_ a Poisoner!'

'Well,' said I, 'all right: tell me whatever you like that I should call
you, and henceforth I will call you that.'

'Call me Eve,' says she.

'Well, no,' said I, 'not Eve, anything but that: for _my_ name is Adam,
and if I called you Eve, that would be simply absurd, and we do not want
to be ridiculous in each other's eyes. But I will call you anything else
that you like.'

'Call me Leda,' says she.

'And why Leda?' said I.

'Because Leda sounds something like Clodagh,' says she, 'and you are
al-leady in the habit of calling me Clodagh; and I saw the name Leda in
a book, and liked it: but Clodagh is most hollible, most bitterly
hollible!'

'Well, then,' said I, 'Leda it shall be, and I shan't forget, for I like
it, too, and it suits you, and you ought to have a name beginning with
an "L." Good-night, my dear, sleep well, and dream, dream.'

'And to you, too, my God give dleams of peace and pleasantness,' says
she; and I went.

And it was only when I had lain myself upon leaves for my bed, my head
on my caftan, a rill for my lullaby, and two stars, which alone I could
see out of the heavenful, for my watch-lights; and only when my eyes
were already closed toward slumber, that a sudden strong thought pierced
and woke me: for I remembered that Leda was the name of a Greek woman
who had borne twins. In fact, I should not be surprised if this Greek
word Leda is the same word etymologically as the Hebrew Eve, for I have
heard of _v's_, and _b's_, and _d's_ interchanging about in this way,
and if _Di_, meaning God, or Light, and _Bi_, meaning Life, and Io_v_e,
and Iho_v_ah and Go_d_, meaning much the same, are all one, that would
be nothing astonishing to me, as wi_d_ow, and veu_v_e, are one: and
where it says, 'truly the Light is Good (_tob, b_on),' this is as if it
said, 'truly the Di is Di.' Such, at any rate, is the fatality that
attends me, even in the smallest things: for this Western Eve, or Greek
Leda, had twins.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, the next morning we crossed by the ruins of old Greek Phanar
across the triple Stamboul-wall, which still showed its deep-ivied
portal, and made our way, not without climbing, along the Golden Horn to
the foot of the Old Seraglio, where I soon found signs of the railway.
And that minute commenced our journey across Turkey, Bulgaria, Servia,
Bosnia, Croatia, to Trieste, occupying no day or two as in old times,
but four months, a long-drawn nightmare, though a nightmare of rich
happiness, if one may say so, leaving on the memory a vague vast
impression of monstrous ravines, ever-succeeding profundities, heights
and greatnesses, jungles strange as some moon-struck poet's fantasy,
everlasting glooms, and a sound of mighty unseen rivers, cataracts, and
slow cumbered rills whose bulrushes never see the sun, with largesse
everywhere, secrecies, profusions, the unimaginable, the unspeakable, a
savagery most lush and fierce and gaudy, and vales of Arcadie, and
remote mountain-peaks, and tarns shy as old-buried treasure, and
glaciers, and we two human folk pretty small and drowned and lost in
all that amplitude, yet moving always through it.

We followed the lines that first day till we came to a steam train, and
I found the engine fairly good, and everything necessary to move it at
my hand: but the metals in such a condition of twisted, broken, vaulted,
and buried confusion, due to the earthquake, that, having run some
hundreds of yards to examine them, I saw that nothing could be done in
that way. At first this threw me into a condition like despair, for what
we were to do I did not know: but after persevering on foot for four
days along the deep-rusted track, which is of that large-gauge type
peculiar to Eastern Europe, I began to see that there were considerable
sound stretches, and took heart.

I had with me land-charts and compass, but nothing for taking
altitude-observations: for the _Speranza_ instruments, except one
compass, had all been broken-up by her shock. However, on getting to the
town of Silivri, about thirty miles from our start, I saw in the ruins
of a half-standing bazaar-shop a number of brass objects, and there
found several good sextants, quadrants, and theodolites. Two mornings
later, we came upon an engine in mid-country, with coals in it, and a
stream near; I had a goat-skin of almond-oil in the bag, and found the
machinery serviceable after an hour's careful inspection, having
examined the boiler with a candle through the manhole, and removed the
autoclaves of the heaters. All was red with rust, and the shaft of the
connecting-rod in particular seemed so frail, that at one moment I was
very dubious: I decided, however, and, except for a slight leakage at
the tubulure which led the steam to the valve-chest, all went very well;
at a pressure never exceeding three-and-a-half atmospheres, we travelled
nearly a hundred and twenty miles before being stopped by a head-to-head
block on the line, when we had to abandon our engine; we then continued
another seven miles a-foot, I all the time mourning my motor, which I
had had to leave at Imbros, and hoping at every townlet to find a whole
one, but in vain.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was wonderful to see the villages and towns going back to the earth,
already invaded by vegetation, and hardly any longer breaking the
continuity of pure Nature, the town now as much the country as the
country, and that which is not-Man becoming all in all with a certain
_furore_ of vigour. A whole day in the southern gorges of the Balkan
Mountains the slow train went tearing its way through many a mile of
bind-weed tendrils, a continuous curtain, flaming with large flowers,
but sombre as the falling shades of night, rather resembling jungles of
Ceylon and the Filipinas; and she, that day, lying in the single car
behind, where I had made her a little yatag-bed from Tatar Bazardjik,
continually played the kittur, barely touching the strings, and crooning
low, low, in her rich contralto, eternally the same air, over and over
again, crooning, crooning, some melancholy tune of her own dreaming,
just audible to me through the slow-travailing monotony of the engine;
till I was drunken with so sweet a woe, my God, a woe that was sweet as
life, and a dolour that lulled like nepenthe, and a grief that soothed
like kisses, so sweet, so sweet, that all that world of wood and gloom
lost locality and realness for me, and became nothing but a charmed and
pensive Heaven for her to moan and lullaby in; and from between my
fingers streamed plenteous tears that day, and all that I could keep on
mourning was 'O Leda, O Leda, O Leda,' till my heart was near to break.

The feed-pump eccentric-shaft of this engine, which was very poor and
flaky, suddenly gave out about five in the afternoon, and I had to stop
in a hurry, and that sweet invisible mechanism which had crooned and
crooned about my ears in the air, and followed me whithersoever I went,
stopped too. Down she jumped, calling out:

'Well, I had a plesentiment that something would happen, and I am so
glad, for I was tired!'

Seeing that nothing could be done with the feed-water pump, I got down,
took the bag, and parting before us the continuous screen, we went
pioneering to the left between a rock-cleft, stepping over large stones
that looked black with moss-growths, no sky, but hundreds of feet of
impenetrable leafage overhead, and everywhere the dew-dabbled profusion
of dim ferneries, dishevelled maidenhairs mixed with a large-leaved
mimosa, wild vine, white briony, and a smell of cedar, and a soft
rushing of perpetual waters that charmed the gloaming. The way led
slightly upwards three hundred feet, and presently, after some windings,
and the climbing of five huge steps almost regular, yet obviously
natural, the gorge opened in a roundish space, fifty feet across, with
far overhanging edges seven hundred feet high; and there, behind a
curtain which fell from above, its tendrils defined and straight like a
Japanese bead-hanging, we spread the store of foods, I opening the
wines, fruits, vegetables and meats, she arranging them in order with
the gold plate, and lighting both the spirit-lamp and the lantern: for
here it was quite dark. Near us behind the curtain of tendrils was a
small green cave in the rock, and at its mouth a pool two yards wide, a
black and limpid water that leisurely wheeled, discharging a little
rivulet from the cave: and in it I saw three owl-eyed fish, a finger
long, loiter, and spur themselves, and gaze. Leda, who cannot be still
in tongue or limb, chattered in her glib baby manner as we ate, and
then, after smoking a cigarette, said that she would go and 'lun,' and
went, and left me darkling, for she is the sun and the moon and the host
of the stars, I occupying myself that night in making a calendar at the
end of this book in which I have written, for my almanack and many
things that I prized were lost with the palace--making a calendar,
counting the days in my head--but counting them across my thoughts of
her.

She came again to tell me good-night, and then went down to the train to
sleep; and I put out the lantern, and stooped within the cave, and made
my simple couch beside the little rivulet, and slept.

But a fitful sleep, and soon again I woke; and a long time I lay so,
gradually becoming conscious of a slow dripping at one spot in the
cave: for at a minute's interval it darkly splashed, regularly, very
deliberately; and it seemed to grow always louder and sadder, and the
splash at first was 'Leesha,' but it became 'Leda' to my ears, and it
sobbed her name, and I pitied myself, so sad was I. And when I could no
longer bear the anguished melancholy of its spasm and its sobbing, I
arose and went softly, softly, lest she should hear in that sounding
silence of the hushed and darksome night, going more slow, more soft, as
I went nearer, a sob in my throat, my feet leading me to her, till I
touched the carriage. And against it a long time I leant my clammy brow,
a sob aching in my poor throat, and she all mixed up in my head with the
suspended hushed night, and with the elfin things in the air that made
the silence so musically a-sound to the vacant ear-drum, and with the
dripping splash in the cave. And softly I turned the door-handle, and
heard her breathe in Asleep, her head near me; and I touched her hair
with my lips, and close to her ear I said--for I heard her breathe as if
in sleep--'Little Leda, I have come to you, for I could not help it,
Leda: and oh, my heart is full of the love of you, for you are mine, and
I am yours: and to live with you, till we die, and after we are dead to
be near you still, Leda, with my broken heart near your heart, little
Leda--'

I must have sobbed, I think; for as I spoke close at her ears, with
passionately dying eyes of love, I was startled by an irregularity in
her breathing; and with cautious hurry I shut the door, and quite back
to the cave I stole in haste.

And the next morning when we met I thought--but am not now sure--that
she smiled singularly: I thought so. She may, she _may_, have heard--But
I cannot tell.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twice I was obliged to abandon engines on account of forest-tree
obstructions right across the line, which, do what I might, I could not
move, and these were the two bitterest incidents of the pilgrimage; and
at least thirty times I changed from engine to engine, when other trains
blocked. As for the extent of the earthquake, it is pretty certain that
it was universal over the Peninsula, and at many points exhibited
extreme violence, for up to the time that we entered upon Servian
territory, we occasionally came upon stretches of the lines so
dislocated, that it was impossible to proceed upon them, and during the
whole course I never saw one intact house or castle; four times, where
the way was of a nature to permit of it, I left the imbedded metals and
made the engine travel the ground till I came upon other metals, when I
always succeeded in driving it upon them. It was all very leisurely, for
not everywhere, nor every day, could I get a nautical observation, and
having at all times to go at low pressures for fear of tube and boiler
weakness, crawling through tunnels, and stopping when total darkness
came on, we did not go fast, nor much cared to. Once, moreover, for
three days, and once for four, we were overtaken by hurricanes of such
vast inclemency, that no thought of travelling entered our heads, our
only care being to hide our poor cowering bodies as deeply and darkly as
possible. Once I passed through a city (Adrianople) doubly devastated,
once by the hellish arson of my own hand, and once by the earthquake:
and I made haste to leave that place behind me.

Finally, three months and twenty-seven days from the date of the
earthquake, having traversed only 900 odd English miles, I let go in the
Venice lagoon, in the early morning of the 10th September, the lateen
sail and stone anchor of a Maltese _speronare_, which I had found, and
partially cleaned, at Trieste; and thence I passed up the Canalazzo in a
gondola. For I said to Leda: 'In Venice will I pitch my Patriarch tent.'

But to will and to do are not the same thing, and still further
Westward was I driven. For the stagnant upper canals of this place are
now mere miasmas of pestilence: and within two days I was rolling with
fever in the Old Procurazie Palace, she standing in pale wonderment at
my bed-side, sickness quite a novel thing to her: and, indeed, this was
my first serious illness since my twentieth year or thereabouts, when I
had over-worked my brain, and went a voyage to Constantinople. I could
not move from bed for some weeks, but happily did not lose my senses,
and she brought me the whole pharmacopoeia from the shops, from which to
choose my medicines. I guessed the cause of this illness, though not a
sign of it came near her, and as soon as my trembling knees could bear
me, I again set out--always Westward--enjoying now a certain luxury in
travelling compared with that Turkish difficulty, for here were no
twisted metals, more and better engines, in the cities as many good
petrol motors as I chose, and Nature markedly less savage.

I do not know why I did not stop at Verona or Brescia, or some other
neighbourhood of the Italian lakes, since I was fond of water: but I
had, I think, the thought in my head to return to Vauclaire in France,
where I had lived, and there live: for I thought that she might like
those old monks. At all events, we did not remain long in any place till
we came to Turin, where we spent nine days, she in the house opposite
mine, and after that, at her own suggestion, went on still, passing by
train into the valley of the Isère, and then into that of the Western
Rhone, till we came to the old town of Geneva among some very great
mountains peaked with snow, the town seated at the head of a long lake
which the earth has made in the shape of the crescent moon, and like the
moon it is a thing of much beauty and many moods, suggesting a creature
under the spell of charms and magics. However, with this idea of
Vauclaire still in my head, we left Geneva in the motor which had
brought us at four in the afternoon of the 17th May, I intending to
reach the town called Bourg that night about eight, and there sleep, so
to go on to Lyons the next morning by train, and so, by the Bordeaux
route, make Vauclaire. But by some chance for which I cannot to this
hour account (unless the rain was the cause), I missed the chart-road,
which should have been fairly level, and found myself on mountain
tracks, unconscious of my whereabouts, while darkness fell, and a
windless downpour that had a certain sullen venom in its superabundance
drenched us. I stopped several times, looking about for château,
chalet, or village, but none did I see, though I twice came upon railway
lines; and not till midnight did we run down a rather steep pass upon
the shore of a lake, which, from its apparent vastness in the moonless
obscurity, I could only suppose to be the Lake of Geneva once again.
About two hundred yards to the left we saw through the rain a large
pile, apparently risen straight out of the lake, looking ghostly livid,
for it was of white stone, not high, but an old thing of complicated
white little turrets roofed with dark red candle extinguishers, and
oddities of Gothic nooks, window slits, and outline, very like a
fanciful picture. Round to this we went, drowned as rats, Leda sighing
and bedraggled, and found a narrow spit of low land projecting into the
lake, where we left the car, walked forward with the bag, crossed a
small wooden drawbridge, and came upon a rocky island with a number of
thick-foliaged trees about the castle. We quickly found a small open
portal, and went throughout the place, quite gay at the shelter,
everywhere lighting candles which we found in iron sconces in the rather
queer apartments: so that, as the castle is far seen from the shores of
the lake, it would have appeared to one looking thence a place suddenly
possessed and haunted. We found beds, and slept: and the next day it
turned out to be the antique Castle of Chillon, where we remained five
long and happy months, till again, again, Fate overtook us.

       *       *       *       *       *

The morning after our coming, we had breakfast--our last meal
together--on the first floor in a pentagonal room approached from a
lower level by three little steps. In it is a ponderous oak table
pierced with a multitude of worm eaten tunnels, also three mighty high
backed chairs, an old oak desk covered still with papers, arras on the
walls, and three dark religious oil paintings, and a grandfathers clock:
it is at about the middle of the château, and contains two small, but
deep, three faced oriels, in each face four compartments with white
stone shafts between, these looking south upon shrubs and the rocky edge
of the island, then upon the deep blue lake, then upon another tiny
island containing four trees in a jungle of flowers, then upon the shore
of the lake interrupted by the mouths of a river which turned out to be
the Rhone, then upon a white town on the slopes which turned out to be
Villeneuve, then upon the great mountains back of Bouveret and St.
Gingolph, all having the surprised air of a resurrection just
completed, everything new washed in dyes of azure, ultramarine, indigo,
snow, emerald, that fresh morning: so that one had to call it the best
and holiest place in the world. These five old room walls, and oak
floor, and two oriels, became specially mine, though it was really
common ground to us both, and there I would do many little things. The
papers on the desk told that it had been the _bureau_ of one R.E. Gaud,
'_Grand Bailli_,' whose residence the place no doubt had been.

She asked me while eating that morning to stay here, and I said that I
would see, though with misgiving: so together we went all about the
house, and finding it unexpectedly spacious, I consented to stop. At
both ends are suites, mostly small rooms, infinitely quaint and cosy,
furnished with heavy Henri Quatre furniture and bed draperies; and there
are separate, and as it were secret, spiral stairs for exit to each: so
we decided that she should have the suite overlooking the length of the
lake, the mouths of the Rhone, Bouveret and Villeneuve; and I should
have that overlooking the spit of land behind and the little drawbridge,
shore cliffs, and elmwood which comes down to the shore, giving at one
point a glimpse of the diminutive hamlet of Chillon; and, that decided,
I took her hand in mine, and I said:

'Well, then, here we stay, both under the same roof--for the first time.
Leda, I will not explain why to you, but it is dangerous, so much so
that it _may_ mean the death of one or other of us: deadly, deadly
dangerous, my poor girl. You do not understand, but that is the fact,
believe me, for I know it very well, and I would not tell you false.
Well, then, you will easily comprehend, that this being so, you must
never on any account come near my part of the house, nor will I come
near yours. Lately we have been very much together, but then we have
been active, full of purpose and occupation: here we shall be nothing of
the kind, I can see. You do not understand at all--but things are so. We
must live perfectly separate lives, then. You are nothing to me, really,
nor I to you, only we live on the same earth, which is nothing at all--a
mere chance. Your own food, clothes, and everything that you want, you
will procure for yourself: it is perfectly easy: the shores are crowded
with mansions, castles, towns and villages; and I will do the same for
myself. The motor down there I set apart for your private use: if I want
another, I will get one; and to-day I will set about looking you up a
boat and fishing tackle, and cut a cross on the bow of yours, so that
you may know yours, and never use mine. All this is very necessary: you
cannot dream how much: but I know how much. Do not run any risks in
climbing, now, or with the motor, or in the boat ... little Leda ...'

I saw her under-lip push, and I turned away in haste, for I did not care
whether she cried or not. In that long voyage, and in my illness at
Venice, she had become too near and dear to me, my tender love, my dear
darling soul; and I said in my heart: 'I will be a decent being: I will
turn out trumps.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Under this castle is a sort of dungeon, not narrow, nor very dark, in
which are seven stout dark-grey pillars, and an eighth, half-built into
the wall; and one of them which has an iron ring, as well as the ground
around it, is all worn away by some prisoner or prisoners once chained
there; and in the pillar the word 'Byron' engraved. This made me
remember that a poet of that name had written something about this
place, and two days afterwards I actually came upon three volumes of the
poet in a room containing a great number of books, many of them English,
near the Grand Bailli's _bureau_: and in one I read the poem, which is
called 'The Prisoner of Chillon.' I found it very affecting, and the
description good, only I saw no seven rings, and where he speaks of the
'pale and livid light,' he should speak rather of the dun and brownish
gloom, for the word 'light' disconcerts the fancy, and of either pallor
or blue there is there no sign. However, I was so struck by the horror
of man's cruelty to man, as depicted in this poem, that I determined
that she should see it; went up straight to her rooms with the book,
and, she being away, ferreted among her things to see what she was
doing, finding all very neat, except in one room where were a number of
prints called _La Mode_, and _débris_ of snipped cloth, and medley.
When, after two hours, she came in, and I suddenly presented myself,
'Oh!' she let slip, and then fell to cooing her laugh; and I took her
down through a big room stacked with every kind of rifle, with
revolvers, cartridges, powder, swords, bayonets--evidently some official
or cantonal magazine--and then showed her the worn stone in the dungeon,
the ring, the narrow deep slits in the wall, and I told the tale of
cruelty, while the splashing of the lake upon the rock outside was heard
with a strange and tragic sound, and her mobile face was all one sorrow.

'How cruel they must have been!' cries she with tremulous lip, her face
at the same time reddened with indignation.

'They were mere beastly monsters,' said I: 'it is nothing surprising if
monsters were cruel.'

And in the short time while I said that, she was looking up with a
new-born smile.

'Some others came and set the plisoner flee!' cries she.

'Yes,' said I, 'they did, but--'

'That was good of them,' says she.

'Yes,' said I, 'that was all right, so far as it went.'

'And it was a time when men had al-leady become cluel,' says she: 'if
those who set him flee were so good when all the lest were cluel, what
would they have been at a time when all the lest were kind? They would
have been just like Angels....!'

       *       *       *       *       *

At this place fishing, and long rambles, were the order of the day, both
for her and for me, especially fishing, though a week rarely passed
which did not find me at Bouveret, St. Gingolph, Yvoire, Messery, Nyon,
Ouchy, Vevay, Montreux, Geneva, or one of the two dozen villages,
townlets, or towns, that crowd the shores, all very pretty places, each
with its charm, and mostly I went on foot, though the railway runs right
round the forty odd miles of the lake's length. One noon-day I was
walking through the main-street of Vevay going on to the Cully-road when
I had a fearful shock, for in a shop just in front of me to the right I
heard a sound--an unmistakable indication of life--as of clattering
metals shaken together. My heart leapt into my mouth, I was conscious of
becoming bloodlessly pale, and on tip-toe of exquisite caution I stole
up to the open door--peeped in--and it was she standing on the counter
of a jeweller's shop, her back turned to me, with head bent low over a
tray of jewels in her hands, which she was rummaging for something. I
went _'Hoh!'_ for I could not help it, and all that day, till sunset, we
were very dear friends, for I could not part from her, we walking
together by vor-alpen, wood, and shore all the way to Ouchy, she just
like a creature crazy that day with the bliss of living, rolling in
grasses and perilous flowery declines, stamping her foot defiantly at
me, arrogant queen that she is, and then running like mad for me to
catch her, with laughter, _abandon_, carolling railleries, and the
levity of the wild ass's colt on the hills, entangling her loose-flung
hair with Bacchic tendril and blossom, and drinking, in the passage
through Cully, more wine, I thought, than was good: and the flaming
darts of lightning that shot and shocked me that day, and the inner
secret gleams and revelations of Beauty which I had, and the pangs of
white-hot honey that tortured my soul and body, and were too much for
me, and made me sick, oh Heaven, what tongue could express all that deep
world of things? And at Ouchy with a backward wave of my arm I silently
motioned her from me, for I was dumb, and weak, and I left her there:
and all that long night her power was upon me, for she is stronger than
gravitation, which may be evaded, and than all the forces of life
combined, and the sun and the moon and the earth are nothing compared
with her; and when she was gone from me I was like a fish in the air, or
like a bird in the deep, for she is my element of life, made for me to
breathe in, and I drown without her: so that for many hours I lay on
that grassy hill leading to the burial-ground outside Ouchy that night,
like a man sore wounded, biting the grass.

What made things worse for me was her adoption of European clothes since
coming to this place: I believe that, in her adroit way, she herself
made some of her dresses, for one day I saw in her apartments a number
of coloured fashion-plates, with a confusion like dress-making; or she
may have been only modifying finished things from the shops, for her
Western dressing is not quite like what I remember of the modern female
style, but is really, I should say, quite her own, rather resembling the
Greek, or the eighteenth century. At any rate, the airs and graces are
as natural to her as feathers to parrots; and she has changes like the
moon; never twice the same, and always transcending her last phase and
revelation: for I could not have conceived of anyone in whom _taste_ was
a faculty so separate as in her, so positive and salient, like smelling
or sight--more like _smelling_: for it is the faculty, half Reason, half
Imagination, by which she fore-scents precisely what will suit
exquisitely with what; so that every time I saw her, I received the
impression of a perfectly novel, completely bewitching, work of Art: the
special quality of works of Art being to produce the momentary
conviction that anything else whatever could not possibly be so good.

Occasionally, from my window I would see her in the wood beyond the
drawbridge, cool and white in green shade, with her Bible probably,
training her skirt like a court-lady, and looking much taller than
before. I believe that this new dressing produced a separation between
us more complete than it might have been; and especially after that day
between Vevay and Ouchy I was very careful not to meet her. The more I
saw that she bejewelled herself, powdered herself, embalmed herself like
sachets of sweet scents, chapleted her Greek-dressed head with gold
fillets, the more I shunned her. Myself, somehow, had now resumed
European dress, and, ah me, I was greatly changed, greatly changed, God
knows, from the portly inflated monarch-creature that strutted and
groaned four years previously in the palace at Imbros: so that my manner
of life and thought might once more now have been called modern and
Western.

All the more was my sense of responsibility awful: and from day to day
it seemed to intensify. An arguing Voice never ceased to remonstrate
within me, nor left me peace, and the curse of unborn hosts appeared to
menace me. To strengthen my fixity I would often overwhelm myself, and
her, with muttered opprobriums, calling myself 'convict,' her
'lady-bird'; asking what manner of man was I that I should dare so great
a thing; and as for her, what was she to be the Mother of a world?--a
versatile butterfly with a woman's brow! And continually now in my
fiercer moods I was meditating either my death--or hers.

Ah, but the butterfly did not let me forget her brow! To the south-west
of Villeneuve, between the forest and the river is a well-grown gentian
field, and returning from round St. Gingolph to the Château one day in
the third month after an absence of three days, I saw, as I turned a
corner in the descent of the mountain, some object floating in the air
above the field. Never was I more startled, and, above all, perplexed:
for, beside the object soaring there like a great butterfly, I could see
nothing to account for it. It was not long, however, before I came to
the conclusion that she has re-invented _the kite_--for she had almost
certainly never seen one--and I presently sighted her holding the string
in the midfield. Her invention resembles the kind called 'swallow-tail'
of old.

       *       *       *       *       *

But mostly it was on the lake that I saw her, for there we chiefly
lived, and occasionally there were guilty approaches and _rencontres_,
she in her boat, I in mine, both being slight clinker-built Montreux
pleasure-boats, which I had spent some days in overhauling and
varnishing, mine with jib, fore-and-aft mainsail, and spanker, hers
rather smaller, one-masted, with an easy-running lug-sail. It was no
uncommon thing for me to sail quite to Geneva, and come back from a
seven-days' cruise with my soul filled and consoled with the lake and
all its many moods of bright and darksome, serene and pensive, dolorous
and despairing and tragic, at morning, at noon, at sunset, at midnight,
a panorama that never for an instant ceased to unroll its
transformations, I sometimes climbing the mountains as high as the
goat-herd region of hoch-alpen, once sleeping there. And once I was made
very ill by a two-weeks' horror which I had: for she disappeared in her
skiff, I being at the Château, and she did not come back; and while she
was away there was a tempest that turned the lake into an angry ocean,
and, ah my good God, she did not come. At last, half-crazy at the vacant
days of misery which went by and by, and she did not come, I set out
upon a wild-goose quest, of her--of all the hopeless things the most
hopeless, for the world is great--and I sought and did not find her; and
after three days I turned back, recognising that I was mad to search the
infinite, and coming near the Château, I saw her wave her handkerchief
from the island-edge, for she divined that I had gone to seek her, and
she was watching for me: and when I took her hand, what did she say to
me, the Biblical simpleton?--'Oh you of little Faith!' says she. And she
had adventures to lisp, with all the _r_'s liquefied into _l_'s, and I
was with her all that day again.

Once a month perhaps she would knock at my outermost door, which I
mostly kept locked when at home, bringing me a sumptuously-dressed,
highly-spiced red trout or grayling, which I had not the heart to
refuse, and exquisitely she does them, all hot and spiced, applying
apparently to their preparation the taste which she applies to dress;
and her extraordinary luck in angling did not fail to supply her with
the finest specimens, though, for that matter, this lake, with its old
fish-hatcheries and fish-ladders, is not miserly in that way, swarming
now with the best lake trout, river trout, red trout, and with salmon,
of which last I have brought in one with the landing-net of, I should
say, thirty-five to forty pounds. As the bottom goes off very rapidly
from the two islands to a depth of eight to nine hundred feet, we did
not long confine ourselves to bottom-fishing, but gradually advanced to
every variety of manoeuvre, doing middle-water spinning with
three-triangle flights and sliding lip-hook for jack and trout, trailing
with the sail for salmon, live-baiting with the float for pike, daping
with blue-bottles, casting with artificial flies, and I could not say in
which she became the most carelessly adept, for all soon seemed as old
and natural to her as an occupation learned from birth.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the 21st October I attained my forty-sixth birthday in excellent
health: a day destined to end for me in bloodshed and tragedy, alas. I
forget now what circumstance had caused me to mention the date long
beforehand in, I think, Venice, not dreaming that she would keep any
count of it, nor was I even sure that my calendar was not faulty by a
day. But at ten in the morning of what I called the 21st, descending by
my private spiral in flannels with some trout and par bait, and
tackle--I met her coming up, my God, though she had no earthly right to
be there. With her cooing murmur of a laugh, yet pale, pale, and with a
most guilty look, she presented me a large bouquet of wild flowers.

I was at once thrown into a state of great agitation. She was dressed in
rather a frippery of _mousseline de soie_, all cream-laced, with
wide-hanging short sleeves, a large diamond at the low open neck, the
ivory-brown skin there contrasting with the powdered bluish-white of her
face, where, however, the freckles were not quite whited out; on her
feet little pink satin slippers, without any stockings--a divinely pale
pink; and well back on her hair a plain thin circlet of gold; and she
smelled like heaven, God knows.

I could not speak. She broke an awkward silence, saying, very faint and
pallid:

'It is the day!'

'I--perhaps--' I said, or some incoherency like that.

I saw the touch of enthusiasm which she had summoned up quenched by my
manner.

'I have not done long again?' she asked, looking down, breaking another
silence.

'No, no, oh no,' said I hurriedly: 'not done wrong again. Only, I could
not suppose that you would count up the days. You are ... considerate.
Perhaps--but--'

'Tell Leda?'

'Perhaps.... I was going to say ... you might come fishing with me....'

'O luck!' she went softly.

I was pierced by a sense of my base cowardice, my incredible weakness:
but I could not at all help it.

I took the flowers, and we went down to the south side, where my boat
lay; I threw out some of the fish from the well; arranged the tackle,
and then the stern cushions for her; got up the sails; and out we went,
she steering, I in the bows, with every possible inch of space between
us, receiving delicious intermittent whiffs from her of ambergris,
frangipane, or some blending of perfumes, the morning being bright and
hot, with very little breeze on the water, which looked mottled, like
colourless water imperfectly mixed with indigo-wash, we making little
headway; so it was some time before I moved nearer her to get the par
for fixing on the three-triangle flight, for I was going to trail for
salmon or large lake-trout; and during all that time we spoke not a word
together.

Afterwards I said:

'Who told you that flowers are proper to birthdays? or that birthdays
are of any importance?'

'I suppose that nothing can happen so important as birth,' says she:
'and perfumes must be ploper to birth, because the wise men blought
spices to the young Jesus.'

This _naïveté_ was the cause of my immediate recovery: for to laugh is
to be saved: and I laughed right out, saying:

'But you read the Bible too much! all your notions are biblical. You
should read the quite modern books.'

'I have tlied,' says she: 'but I cannot lead them long, nor often. The
whole world seems to have got so collupted. It makes me shudder.'

'Ah, well now, you see, you quite come round to my point of view,' said
I.

'Yes, and no,' says she: 'they had got so _spoiled_, that is all.
Everlybody seems to have become quite dull-witted--the plainest tluths
they could not see. I can imagine that those faculties which aided them
in their stlain to become lich themselves, and make the lest more poor,
must have been gleatly sharpened, while all the other faculties
withered: as I can imagine a person with one eye seeing double thlough
it, and quite blind on the other side.'

'Ah,' said I, 'I do not think they even _wanted_ to see on the other
side. There were some few tolerably good and clear-sighted ones among
them, you know: and these all agreed in pointing out how, by changing
one or two of their old man-in-the-moon Bedlam arrangements, they could
greatly better themselves: but they heard with listless ears: I don't
know that they ever made any considerable effort. For they had become
more or less unconscious of their misery, so miserable were they: like
the man in Byron's "Prisoner of Chillon," who, when his deliverers came,
was quiet indifferent, for he says:

  "It was at length the same to me
  Fettered or fetterless to be:
    I had learned to love Despair."'

'Oh my God,' she went, covering her face a moment, 'how dleadful! And
it is tlue, it seems tlue:--they had learned to love Despair, to be even
ploud of Despair. Yet all the time, I feel _sure_ flom what I have lead,
flom what I scent, that the individual man was stluggling to see, to
live light, but without power, like one's leg when it is asleep: that is
so pletty of them all! that they meant well--everly one. But they were
too tloubled and sad, too awfully burdened: they had no chance at all.
Such a queer, unnatulal feeling it gives me to lead of all that world: I
can't desclibe it; all their motives seem so tainted, their life so
lopsided. Tluely, the whole head was sick, and the whole heart faint.'

'Quite so,' said I: 'and observe that this was no new thing: in the very
beginning of the Book we read how God saw that the wickedness of man was
great on the earth, and every imagination of his heart evil....'

'Yes,' she interrupted, 'that is tlue: but there must have been some
_cause!_ We can be quite _sure_ that it was not natulal, because you and
I are men, and our hearts are not evil.'

This was her great argument which she always trotted out, because she
found that I had usually no answer to give to it. But this time I said:

'Our hearts not evil? Say yours: but as to mine you know nothing,
Leda.'

The semicircles under her eyes had that morning, as often, a certain
moist, heavy, pensive and weary something, as of one fresh from a revel,
very sweet and tender: and, looking softly at me with it, she answered:

'I know my own heart, and it is not evil: not at all: not even in the
very least: and I know yours, too.'

'You know _mine!_' cried I, with a half-laugh of surprise.

'Quite well,' says she.

I was so troubled by this cool assurance, that I said not a word, but
going to her, handed her the baited flight, swivel-trace, and line,
which she paid out; then I got back again almost into the bows.

After a ten-minutes I spoke again:

'So this is news to me: you know all about my heart. Well, come, tell me
what is in it!'

Now she was silent, pretending to be busy with the trail, till she said,
speaking with low-bent face, and a voice that I could only just hear:

'I will tell you what is in it: in it is a lebellion which you think
good, but is not good. If a stleam will just flow, neither tlying to
climb upward, nor over-flowing its banks, but lunning modestly in its
fated channel just wherever it is led, then it will finally leach the
sea--the mighty ocean--and lose itself in fulness.'

'Ah,' said I, 'but that counsel is not new. It is what the philosophers
used to call "yielding to Destiny," and "following Nature." And Destiny
and Nature, I give you my word, often led mankind quite wrong--'

'Or _seemed_ to,' says she--'for a time: as when a stleam flows north a
little, and the sea is to the south: but it is bound for the sea all the
time, and will turn again. Destiny never could, and cannot yet, be
judged, for it is not finished: and our lace should follow blindly
whither it points, sure that thlough many curves it leads the world to
our God.'

'Our God indeed!' I cried, getting very excited: 'girl! you talk
speciously, but falsely! whence have you these thoughts in that head of
yours? Girl! you talk of "our race"! But there are only two of us left?
Are you talking _at_ me, Leda? Do not _I_ follow Destiny?'

'You?' she sighed, with down-bent face: 'ah, poor me!'

'What should I do if I followed it?' said I, with a crazy curiosity.

Her face hung lower, paler, in trouble: and she said:

'You would come now and sit near me here. You would not be there where
you are. You would be always and for ever near me....'

My good God! I felt my face redden.

'Oh, I could not _tell_ you...!' I cried: 'you talk the most disastrous...!
you lack all responsibility...! Never, never...!'

Her face now was covered with her left hand, her right on the tiller:
and bitingly she said, with a touch of venom:

'I could _make_ you come--_now_, if I chose: but I will not: I will wait
upon my God....'

'_Make_ me!' I cried: 'Leda! How make me?'

'I could cly before you, as I cly often and often ... in seclet ... for
my childlen....'

'_You_ cry in secret? This is news--'

'Yes, yes, I cly. Is not the burden of the world heavy upon me, too? and
the work I have to do _vely, vely_ gleat? And often and often I cly in
seclet, thinking of it: and I could cly now if I chose, for you love
your little girl so much, that you could not lesist me one minute....'

Now I saw the push and tortion and trembling of her poor little
under-lip, boding tears: and at once a flame was in me which was
altogether beyond control; and crying out: 'why, my poor dear,' I found
myself in the act of rushing through the staggering boat to take her to
me.

Mid-way, however, I was saved: a whisper, intense as lightning, arrested
me: 'Forward is no escape, nor backward, but _sideward_ there may be a
way!' And at a sudden impulse, before I knew what I was doing, I was in
the water swimming.

The smaller of the islands was two hundred yards away, and thither I
swam, rested some minutes, and thence to the Castle. I did not once look
behind me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, from 11 A.M. till five in the afternoon, I thought it all out,
lying in the damp flannels on my face on the sofa in the recess beside
my bed, where it was quite dark behind the tattered piece of arras: and
what things I suffered that day, and what deeps I sounded, and what
prayers I prayed, God knows. What infinitely complicated the awful
problem was this thought in my head: that to kill her would be far more
merciful to her than to leave her alone, having killed myself: and,
Heaven knows, it was for her alone that I thought, not at all caring for
myself. To kill her was better: but to kill her with my own hands--that
was too hard to expect of a poor devil like me, a poor common son of
Adam, after all, and never any sublime self-immolator, as two or three
of them were. And hours I lay there with brows convulsed in an agony,
groaning only those words: 'To kill her! to kill her!' thinking
sometimes that I should be merciful to myself too, and die, and let her
live, and not care, since, after my death, I would not see her suffer,
for the dead know not anything: and to expect me to kill her with my own
hand was a little too much. Yet that one or other of us must die was
perfectly certain, for I knew that I was just on the brink of failing in
my oath, and matters here had reached an obvious crisis: unless we could
make up our minds to part...? putting the width of the earth between
us? That conception occurred to me: and in the turmoil of my thoughts it
seemed a possibility. Finally, about 5 P.M., I resolved upon something:
and first I leapt up, went down and across the house into the arsenal,
chose a small revolver, fitted it with cartridge, took it up-stairs,
lubricated it with lamp-oil, went down and out across the drawbridge,
walked two miles beyond the village, shot the revolver at a tree, found
its action accurate, and started back. When I came to the Castle, I
walked along the island to the outer end, and looked up: there were her
pretty cream Valenciennes, put up by herself, waving inward before the
light lake-breeze at one open oriel; and I knew that she was in the
Castle, for I felt it: and always, always, when she was within, I knew,
for I felt her with me; and always when she was away, I knew, I felt,
for the air had a dreadful drought, and a barrenness, in it. And I
looked up for a time to see if she would come to the window, and then I
called, and she appeared. And I said to her: 'Come down here.'

       *       *       *       *       *

Just here there is a little rock-path to the south, going down to the
water between rocks mixed with shrub-like little trees, three yards
long: a path, or a lane, one might call it, for at the lower end the
rocks and trees reach well over a tall man's head. There she had tied my
boat to a slender linden-trunk: and sadder now than Gethsemane that
familiar boat seemed to my eyes, for I knew very well that I should
never enter it more. I walked up and down the path, awaiting her: and
from the jacket-pocket in which lay the revolver I drew a box of Swedish
matches, from it took two matches, and broke off a bit from the plain
end of one; and the two I held between my left thumb and forefinger
joint, the phosphorus ends level and visible, the other ends invisible:
and I awaited her, pacing fast, and my brow was as stern as Azrael and
Rhadamanthus.

She came, very pale, poor thing, and flurried, breathing fast. And
'Leda,' I said, meeting her in the middle of the lane, and going
straight to the point, 'we are to part, as you guess--for ever, as you
guess--for I see very well by your face that you guess. I, too, am very
sorry, my little child, and heavy is my heart. To leave you ... alone
... in the world ... is--death for me. But it must, ah it must, be
done.'

Her face suddenly turned as sallow as the dead were, when the shroud was
already on, and the coffin had become a stale added piece of
room-furniture by the bed-side; but in recording that fact, I record
also this other: that, accompanying this mortal sallowness, which
painfully shewed up her poor freckles, was a steady smile, a little
turned-down: a smile of steady, of slightly disdainful--Confidence.

She did not say anything: so I went on.

'I have thought long,' said I, 'and I have made a plan--a plan which
cannot be effective without _your_ consent and co-operation: and the
plan is this: we go from this place together--this same night--to some
unknown spot, some town, say a hundred miles hence--by train. There I
get two motors, and I in one, and you in the other, we separate, going
different ways. We shall thus never be able, however much we may want
to, to rediscover each other in all this wide world. That is my plan.'

She looked me in the face, smiling her smile: and the answer was not
long in coming.

'I will go in the tlain with you,' says she with slow decisiveness: 'but
where you leave me, there I will stay, till I die; and I will patiently
wait till my God convert you, and send you back to me.'

'That means that you refuse to do what I say?'

'Yes,' said she, bowing the head with great dignity.

'Well, you speak, not like a girl, Leda,' said I, 'but like a full woman
now. But still, reflect a minute.... O reflect! If you stayed where I
left you, I _should_ go back to you, and pretty soon, too: I know that I
should. Tell me, then--reflect well, and tell me--do you definitely
refuse to part with me?'

The answer was pretty prompt, cool, and firm:

'Yes; I lefuse.'

I left her then, took a turn down the path, and came back.

'Then,' said I, 'here are two matches in my grasp: be good enough to
draw one.'

_Now_ she was hit to the heart: I saw her eyes widen to the width of
horror, with a glassy stare: she had read of the drawing of lots in the
Bible: she knew that it meant death for me, or for her.

But she obeyed without a word, after one backward start and then a brief
hovering in decision of thumb and forefinger over my held-out hand. I
had fixed it in my mind that if she drew the shorter of the matches,
then she should die; if the longer, then I should die.

She drew the shorter....

       *       *       *       *       *

This was only what I should have expected: for I knew that God loved
her, and hated me.

But instantly upon the first shock of the enormity that I should be her
executioner, I made my resolve: to drop shot, too, at the moment after
she dropped shot, so disposing my body, that it would fall half upon
her, and half by her, so that we might be close always: and that would
not be so bad, after all.

With a sudden movement I snatched the revolver from my pocket: she did
not move, except her white lips, which, I think, whispered:

'_Not yet_....'

I stood with hanging arm, forefinger on trigger, looking at her. I saw
her glance once at the weapon, and then she fixed her eyes upwards upon
my face: and now that same smile, which had disappeared, was on her lips
again, meaning confidence, meaning disdain.

I waited for her to open her mouth to say something--to stop that
smile--that I might shoot her quick and sudden: and she would not,
knowing that I could not kill her while she was smiling; and suddenly,
all my pity and love for her changed into a strange resentment and rage
against her, for she was purposely making hard for me what I was doing
for her sake: and the bitter thought was in my mind: 'You are nothing to
me: if you want to die, you do your own killing; and I will do my own
killing.' And without one word to her, I strode away, and left her
there.

I see now that this whole drawing of lots was nothing more than a farce:
I never could have killed her, smiling, or no smiling: for to each thing
and man is given a certain strength: and a thing cannot be stronger than
its strength, strive as it may: it is so strong, and no stronger, and
there is an end of the matter.

I walked up to the Grand Bailli's _bureau_, a room about twenty-five
feet from the ground. By this time it was getting pretty dark, but I
could see, by peering, the face of a grandfather's-clock which I had
long since set going, and kept wound. It is on the north side of the
room, over the writing-desk opposite the oriels. It then pointed to
half-past six, and in order to fix some definite moment for the bitter
effort of the mortal act, I said: 'At Seven.' I then locked the door
which opens upon three little steps near the desk, and also the
stair-door; and I began to pace the chamber. There was not a breath of
air here, and I was hot; I seemed to be stifling, tore open my shirt at
the throat, and opened the lower half of the central mullion-space of
one oriel. Some minutes later, at twenty-five to seven, I lit two
candles on the desk, and sat to write to her, the pistol at my right
hand; but I had hardly begun, when I thought that I heard a sound at the
three-step door, which was only four feet to my left: a sound which
resembled a scraping of her slipper; I stole to the door, and crouched,
listening: but I could hear nothing further. I then returned to the
desk, and set to writing, giving her some last directions for her life,
telling her why I died, how I loved her, much better than my own soul,
begging her to love me always, and to live on to please me, but if she
_would_ die, then to be sure to die near me. Tears were pouring down my
face, when, turning, I saw her standing in a terrified pose hardly two
feet behind me. The absolute stealth which had brought and put her
there, unknown to me, was like miracle: for the ladder, whose top I saw
intruding into the open oriel, I knew well, having often seen it in a
room below, and its length was quite thirty feet, nor could its weight
be trifling: yet I had heard not one hint of its impact upon the window.
But there, at all events, she was, wan as a ghost.

Immediately, as my consciousness realised her, my hand instinctively
went out to secure the weapon: but she darted upon it, and was an
instant before me. I flew after her to wrench it away, but she flew,
too: and before I caught her, had thrown it cleanly through two rungs of
the ladder and the window. I dashed to the window, and after a hurried
peer thought that I saw it below at the foot of a rock; away I flew to
the stair-door, wrung open the lock, and down the stairs, three at a
time, I ran to recover it. I remember being rather surprised that she
did not follow, forgetting all about the ladder.

But with a horrid shock I was reminded of it the moment I reached the
bottom, before ever I had passed from the house: for I heard the report
of the weapon--that crack, my God! and crying out: 'Well, Lord, she has
died for me, then!' I tottered forward, and tumbled upon her, where she
lay under the incline of the ladder in her blood.

       *       *       *       *       *

That night! what a night it was! of fingers shivering with haste, of
harum-scarum quests and searches, of groans, and piteous appeals to God.
For there were no surgical instruments, lint, anaesthetics, nor
antiseptics that I knew of in the Château; and though I knew of a house
in Montreux where I could find them, the distance was quite infinite,
and the time an eternity in which to leave her all alone, bleeding to
death; and, to my horror, I remembered that there was barely enough
petrol in the motor, and the store usually kept in the house exhausted.
However, I did it, leaving her there unconscious on her bed: but _how_ I
did it, and lived sane afterwards, that is another matter.

If I had not been a medical man, she must, I think, have died: for the
bullet had broken the left fifth rib, had been deflected, and I found
it buried in the upper part of the abdominal wall. I did not go from her
bed-side: I did not sleep, though I nodded and staggered: for all things
were nothing to me, but her: and for a frightfully long time she
remained comatose. While she was still in this state I took her to a
chalet beyond Villeneuve, three miles away on the mountain-side, a
homely, but very salubrious place which I knew, imbedded in verdures,
for I was desperate at her long collapse, and had hope in the higher
air. And there after three more days, she opened her eyes, and smiled
with me.

It was then that I said to myself: 'This is the noblest, sagest, and
also the most loveable, of the creatures whom God has made in heaven or
earth. She has won my life, and I will live.... But at least, to save
myself, I will put the broadest Ocean that there is between her and me:
for I wish to be a decent being, for the honour of my race, being the
last, and to turn out trumps ... though I do love my dear, God
knows....'

And thus, after only fifty-five days at the chalet, were we forced still
further Westward.

       *       *       *       *       *

I wished her to remain at Chillon, intending, myself, to start for the
Americas, whence any sudden impulse to return to her could not be
easily accomplished: but she refused, saying that she would come with me
to the coast of France: and I could not say her no.

And at the coast, after thirteen days we arrived, three days before the
New Year, traversing France by steam, air, and petrol traction.

We came to Havre--infirm, infirm of will that I was: for in my deep
heart was the secret, hidden away from my own upper self, that, she
being at Havre, and I at Portsmouth, we could still speak together.

We came humming into the dark town of Havre in a four-seat motor-car
about ten in the evening of the 29th December: a raw bleak night, she,
it was clear, poor thing, bitterly cramped with cold. I had some
recollection of the place, for I had been there, and drove to the quays,
near which I stopped at the _Maire's_ large house, a palatial place
overlooking the sea, in which she slept, I occupying another near.

The next morning I was early astir, searched in the _mairie_ for a map
of the town, where I also found a _Bottin_: I could thus locate the
Telephone Exchange. In the _Maire's_ house, which I had fixed upon to be
her home, the telephone was set up in an alcove adjoining a very stately
_salon_ Louis Quinze; and though I knew that these little dry batteries
would not be run down in twenty odd years, yet, fearing any weakness, I
broke open the box, and substituted a new one from the Company's stores
two streets away, at the same time noting the exchange-number of the
instrument. This done, I went down among the ships by the wharves, and
fixed upon the first old green air-boat that seemed fairly sound, broke
open a near shop, procured some buckets of oil, and by three o'clock had
tested and prepared my ship. It was a dull and mournful day, drizzling,
chilly. I returned then to the _mairie_, where for the first time I saw
her, and she was heavy of heart that day: but when I broke the news that
she would be able to speak to me, every day, all day, first she was all
incredulous astonishment, then, for a moment, her eyes turned white to
Heaven, then she was skipping like a kid. We were together three
precious hours, examining the place, and returning with stores of
whatever she might require, till I saw darkness coming on, and we went
down to the ship.

And when those long-dead screws awoke and moved, bearing me toward the
Outer Basin, I saw her stand darkling, lonely, on the Quai through
heart-rending murk and drizzly inclemency: and oh my God, the gloomy
under-look of those red eyes, and the piteous out-push of that little
lip, and the hurried burying of that face! My heart broke, for I had not
given her even one little, last kiss, and she had been so good, quietly
acquiescing, like a good wife, not attempting to force her presence upon
me in the ship; and I left her there, all widowed, alone on the
Continent of Europe, watching after me: and I went out to the bleak and
dreary fields of the sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arriving at Portsmouth the next morning, I made my residence in the
first house in which I found an instrument, a spacious dwelling facing
the Harbour Pier. I then hurried round to the Exchange, which is on the
Hard near the Docks, a large red building with facings of Cornish
moor-stone, a bank on the ground-floor, and the Exchange on the first.
Here I plugged her number on to mine, ran back, rang--and, to my great
thanksgiving, heard her speak. (This instrument, however, did not prove
satisfactory: I broke the box, and put in another battery, and still the
voice was muffled: finally, I furnished the middle room at the Exchange
with a truckle-bed, stores, and a few things, and here have taken up
residence.)

I believe that she lives and sleeps under the instrument, as I here
live and sleep, sleep and live, under it. My instrument is quite near
one of the harbour-windows, so that, hearing her, I can gaze out toward
her over the expanse of waters, yet see her not; and she, too, looking
over the sea toward me, can hear a voice from the azure depths of
nowhere, yet see me not.

       *       *       *       *       *

I this morning early to her:

'Good morning! Are you there?'

'Good morning! No: I am there,' says she.

'Well, that was what I asked--"are you there"?'

'But I not here, I am there,' says she.

'I know very well that you are not "here,"' said I, 'for I do not see
you: but I asked if you were there, and you say "No," and then "Yes."'

'It is the paladox of the heart,' says she.

'The what?'

'The paladox,' says she.

'But still I do not understand: how can you be both there and not
there?'

'If my ear is here, and I elsewhere?' says she.

'An operation?'

'Yes!' says she.

'What doctor?'

'A specialist!' says she.

'An ear-specialist?'

'A heart!' says she.

'And you let a heart-specialist operate on your ear?'

'On myself he operlated, and left the ear behind!' says she.

'Well, and how are you after it?'

'Fairly well. Are you?' says she.

'Quite well. Did you sleep well?'

'Except when you lang me up at midnight. I have had such a dleam ...'

'What?'

'I dleamed that I saw two little boys of the same age--only I could not
see their faces, I never can see anybody's face, only yours and mine,
mine and yours always--of the same age--playing in a wood....'

'Ah, I hope that one of them was not called Cain, my poor girl.'

'Not at all! neither of them! Suppose I tell a stoly, and say that one
was called Caius and the other Tibelius, or one John and the other
Jesus?'

'Ah. Well, tell me the _dleam_....'

'Now you do not deserve.'

'Well, what will you do to-day?'

'I? It is a lovely day ... have you nice weather in England?'

'Very.'

'Well, between eleven and twelve I will go out and gather Spling-flowers
in the park, and cover the salon deep, deep. Wouldn't you like to be
here?'

'Not I.'

'You would!'

'Why should I? I prefer England.'

'But Flance is nice too: and Flance wants to be fliends with England,
and is waiting, oh waiting, for England to come over, and be fliends.
Couldn't some _lapplochement_ be negotiated?'

'Good-bye. This talking spoils my morning smoke....'

So we speak together across the sea, my God.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the 8th April, when I had been separated thirteen
weeks from her, I boarded several ships in the Inner Port, a lunacy in
my heart, and selected what looked like a very swift boat, one of the
smaller Atlantic air-steamers called the _Stettin_, which seemed to
require the least labour in oiling, &c., in order to fit her for the
sea: for the boat in which I had come to England was a mere tub, though
sound, and I pined for the wings of a dove, that I might fly away to
her, and be at rest.

I toiled with fluttering hands that day, and I believe that I was of the
colour of ashes to my very lips. By half-past two o'clock I was
finished, and by three was coasting down Southampton Water by Netley
Hospital and the Hamble-mouth, having said not one word about anything
at the telephone, or even to my own guilty heart not a word. But in the
silent depths of my being I felt this fact: that this must be a 35-knot
boat, and that, if driven hard, hard, in spite of the heavy garment of
seaweed which she trailed, she would do 30; also that Havre was 120
miles away, and at 7 P.M. I should be on its quay.

And when I was away, and out on the bright and breezy sea, I called to
her, crying out: '_I am coming!_' And I knew that she heard me, and that
her heart leapt to meet me, for mine leapt, too, and felt her answering.

The sun went down: it set. I was tired of the day's work, and of
standing at the high-set wheel; and I could not yet see the coast of
France. And a thought smote me, and after another ten minutes I turned
the ship's head back, my face screwed with pain, God knows, like a man
whose thumbs are ground between the screws, and his body drawn out and
out on the rack to tenuous length, and his flesh massacred with pincers:
and I fell upon the floor of the bridge contorted with anguish: for I
could not go to her. But after a time that paroxysm passed, and I rose
up sullen and resentful, and resumed my place at the wheel, steering
back for England: for a fixed resolve was in my breast, and I said: 'Oh
no, no more. If I could bear it, I would, I would ... but if it is
impossible, how can I? To-morrow night as the sun sets--without fail--so
help me God--I will kill myself.'

       *       *       *       *       *

So it is finished, my good God.

On the early morning of the next day, the 9th, I having come back to
Portsmouth about eleven the previous night, when I bid her 'Good
morning' through the telephone, she said 'Good morning,' and not another
word. I said:

'I got my hookah-bowl broken last night, and shall be trying to mend it
to-day.'

No answer.

'Are you there?' said I.

'Yes,' says she.

'Then why don't you answer?' said I.

'Where were you all yesterday?' says she.

'I went for a little cruise in the basin,' said I.

Silence for three minutes: then she says:

'What is the matter?'

'Matter?' said I, 'nothing!'

'_Tell me!_' she says--with such an intensity and rage, as to make me
shudder.

'There is nothing to tell, Leda!'

'Oh, but how can you be so _cluel_ to me?' she cries, and ah, there was
anguish in that voice! 'There is something to tell--there _is!_ Don't I
know it vely well by your voice?'

Ah, the thought took me then, how, on the morrow, she would ring, and
have no answer; and she would ring again, and have no answer; and she
would ring all day, and ring, and ring; and for ever she would ring,
with white-flowing hair and the staring eye-balls of frenzy, battering
reproaches at the doors of God, and the Universe would cry back to her
howls and ravings only one eternal answer of Silence, of Silence. And as
I thought of that--for very pity, for very pity, my God--I could not
help sobbing aloud:

'May God pity you, woman!'

I do not know if she heard it: she _must_, I think, have heard: but no
reply came; and there I, shivering like the sheeted dead, stood waiting
for her next word, waiting long, dreading, hoping for, her voice,
thinking that if she spoke and sobbed but once, I should drop dead,
dead, where I stood, or bite my tongue through, or shriek the high laugh
of distraction. But when at last, after quite thirty or forty minutes
she spoke, her voice was perfectly firm and calm. She said:

'Are you there?'

'Yes,' said I, 'yes, Leda.'

'What was the color,' says she, 'of the poison-cloud which destroyed the
world?'

'Purple, Leda,' said I.

'And it had a smell like almonds or peach blossoms, did it not?' says
she.

'Yes,' said I, 'yes.'

'Then,' says she, 'there is _another_ eruption. Every now and again I
seem to scent strange whiffs like that ... and there is a purple vapour
in the East which glows and glows ... just see if you can see it....'

I flew across the room to an east window, threw up the grimy sash, and
looked. But the view was barred by the plain brick back of a tall
warehouse. I rushed back, gasped to her to wait, rushed down the two
stairs, and out upon the Hard. For a minute I ran dodging wildly about,
seeking a purview to the East, and finally ran up the dockyard, behind
the storehouses to the Semaphore, and reached the top, panting for life.
I looked abroad. The morning sky, but for a bank of cloud to the
north-west, was cloudless, the sun blazing in a region of clear azure
pallor. And back again I flew.

'I cannot see it...!' I cried.

'Then it has not tlavelled far enough to the north-west yet,' she said
with decision.

'My wife!' I cried: 'you are my wife now!'

'Am I?' says she: 'at last? Are you glad?... But shall I not soon die?'

'No! You can escape! My home! My heart! If only for an hour or two, then
death--just think, together--on the same couch, for ever, heart to
heart--how sweet!'

'Yes! how sweet! But how escape?'

'It travelled slowly before. Get quick--will you?--into one of the
smaller boats by the quay--there is one just under the crane that is an
air-boat--you have seen me turn on the air, haven't you?--that handle on
the right as you descend the steps under the dial-thing--get first a
bucket of oil from the shop next to the clock-tower in the quay-street,
and throw it over everything that you see rusted. Only, spend no
time--for me, my heaven! You can steer by the tiller and compass: well,
the wheel is quite the same, only just the opposite. First unmoor, then
to the handle, then to the wheel. The course is directly North-East by
North. I will meet you on the sea--go now--'

I was wild with bliss. I thought that I should take her between my arms,
and have the little freckles against my face, and taste her short
firm-fleshed upper-lip, and moan upon her, and whimper upon her, and
mutter upon her, and say 'My wife.' And even when I knew that she was
gone from the telephone, I still stood there, hoarsely calling after
her: 'My wife! My wife!'

       *       *       *       *       *

I flew down to where the steamer lay moored that had borne me the
previous day. Her joint speed with the speed of Leda's boat would be
forty knots: in three hours we must meet. I had not the least fear of
her dying before I saw her: for, apart from the deliberate movement of
the vapour that first time, I fore-tasted and trusted my love, that she
would surely come, and not fail: as dying saints fore-tasted and trusted
Eternal Life.

I was no sooner on board the _Stettin_ than her engines were straining
under what was equivalent to forced draught. On the previous day it
would have little surprised me at any moment, while I drove her, to be
carried to the clouds in an explosion from her deep-rusted steel tanks:
but this day such a fear never crossed my mind: for I knew very well
that I was immortal till I saw her.

The sea was not only perfectly smooth, but placid, as on the previous
day: only it seemed far placider, and the sun brighter, and there was a
levity in the breezes that frilled the sea in fugitive dark patches,
like _frissons_ of tickling; and I thought that the morning was a true
marriage-morning, and remembered that it was a Sabbath; and sweet odours
our wedding would not lack of peach and almond, though, looking
eastward, I could see no faintest sign of any purple cloud, but only
rags of chiffon under the sun; and it would be an eternal wedding, for
one day in our sight would be as a thousand years, and our thousand
years of bliss would be but one day, and in the evening of all that
eternity death would come and sweetly lay its finger upon our languid
lids, and we should die of weary bliss; and all manner of dancings and
singings--fandango and light galliard, corantoes and the solemn
gavotte--were a-tune in my heart that happy day; and running by the
chart-house to the wheel, I saw under the table a great roll of old
flags, and presently they were flying in a long curve of gala from the
main; and the sea rumpled in a long tract of tumbling milk behind me;
and I hasted homeward, to meet my heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

No purple cloud could I see as, on and on, for two hours, I tore
southward: but at hot noon, on the weather beam I spied through the
glass across the water something else which moved, and it was you who
came to me, Oh Leda, my spirit's breath!

I bore down upon her, waving: and soon I saw her stand like an ancient
mariner, but in white muslins that fluttered, at her wheel on the
bridge--it was one of those little old Havre-Antwerp craft very high in
the bows--and she waved a little white thing. And we came nearer, till I
could spy her face, her smile, and I shouted her to stop, and in a
minute stopped myself, and by happy steering came with slowing headway
to a slight crash by her side, and ran down the trellised steps to her,
and led her up; and on the deck, without saying a word, I fell to my
knees before her, and I bowed my brow to the floor, with obeisance, and
I worshipped her there as Heaven.

And we were wedded: for she, too, bowed the knee with me under the
jovial blue sky; and under her eyes were the little moist semicircles of
dreamy pensive fatigue, so dear and wifish: and God was there, and saw
her kneel: for He loves the girl.

And I got the two ships apart, and they rested there some yards divided
all the day, and we were in the main-deck cabin, where I had locked a
door, so that no one might come in to be with my love and me.

       *       *       *       *       *

I said to her:

'We will fly west to one of the Somersetshire coal-mines, or to one of
the Cornwall tin-mines, and we will barricade ourselves against the
cloud, and provision ourselves for six months--for it is perfectly
feasible, and we have plenty of time, and no crowds to break down our
barricades--and there in the deep earth we will live sweetly together,
till the danger is overpast.'

And she smiled, and drew her hand across my face, and said:

'No, no: don't you tlust in my God? do you think He would leally let me
die?'

For she has appropriated the Almighty God to herself, naming Him '_my_
God'--the impudence: though she generally knows what she is saying, too.
And she would not fly the cloud.

And I am now writing three weeks later at a little place called
Château-les-Roses, and no poison-cloud, and no sign of any poison-cloud,
has come. And this I do not understand.

It may be that she divined that I was about to destroy myself ... she
may be quite capable.... But no, I do not understand, and shall never
ask her.

But _this_ I understand: that it is _the White_ who is Master here: that
though he wins but by a hair, yet he wins, he wins: and since he wins,
dance, dance, my heart.

I look for a race that shall resemble its Mother: nimble-witted,
light-minded, pious--like her; all-human, ambidextrous, ambicephalous,
two-eyed--like her; and if, like her, they talk the English language
with all the r's turned into l's, I shall not care.

They will be vegetable-eaters, I suppose, when all the meat now extant
is eaten up: but it is not certain that meat is good for men: and if it
is really good, then they will _invent_ a meat: for they will be _her_
sons, and she, to the furthest cycle in which the female human mind is
permitted to orbit, is, I swear, all-wise.

There was a preaching man--a Scotchman he was, named Macintosh, or
something like that--who said that the last end of Man shall be well,
and very well: and she says the same: and the agreement of these two
makes a Truth. And to that I now say: Amen, Amen.

For I, Adam Jeffson, second Parent of the world, hereby lay down,
ordain, and decree for all time, clearly perceiving it now: That the one
Motto and Watch-word essentially proper to each human individual, and to
the whole Race of Man, as distinct from other races in heaven or in
earth, was always, and remains, even this: 'Though He slay me, yet will
I trust in Him.'

THE END.





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